The Wednesday morning drew a crowd of people—and by 8 a.m. some were already lined up outside the doors ready to shop, while a few yards away others had gathered in the parking lot to protest the store’s arrival in their community.
The Encinitas Walmart is the county’s first new store in seven years, and of its approximately 250 employees, 90 percent are new hires, said store manager Lisa Rivera. During Wednesday’s ribbon cutting ceremony, representatives from the Walmart Foundation presented $12,500 in donation money to Encinitas schools and community groups (a complete list is at the end of the story).
“This is just the beginning,” Rivera told the Walmart employees at the grand opening. “We will definitely make this store an impact on this community.”
The Encinitas Chamber of Commerce and a handful of dignitaries were on-hand to welcome Walmart, including Encinitas Mayor Jerome Stocks, who applauded the retailer for providing “sales tax revenue that pays for our public safety, parks, and all the other things we do.”
Stocks was joined by Council members James Bond and Kristin Gaspar.
Sherry Hodges, a candidate for the 76th State Assembly District seat, echoed that stating that it was great to live in a “nation that allows free enterprise to prosper.”
The 92,024-square-foot Walmart, which is housed in , has been surrounded by controversy since its opening
“This doesn’t fit into our community’s character,” said protester Olivier Canler.
Just over his shoulder, someone waved a sign that read: "Encinitas wanted a movie theater but all we got was this Walmart."
“There should have been more discussion about this at the city level and the public should have had time to vet the issue," Canler said. "We understand you can’t interfere with free enterprise, but you can give incentives for certain kinds of businesses to open.”
Many of the protesters said they would have rather seen a business where families can hangout, , bowling alley or gaming center. They also said while they agree Walmart will drum-up a steady stream of revenue, they think it will be at the cost of nearby mom-and-pop shops.
A few protesters who said they owned independent local businesses also declined to go on the record, be photographed and even covered their license plates for fear that if there identities were revealed, there might be negative repercussions from the mayor and his supporters.
When asked for a response, Stocks later told Patch he did not know how to respond to “anonymous persons expressing irrational fear,” but said based on all of the shoppers lined up outside, he felt the protestors “seem pretty out of touch.”
“This is America. If that person wants a movie theater or a bowling alley, pull a permit, invest the money, and open one," he said. "Nobody is stopping them."
The Encinitas Walmart includes groceries, a pharmacy, a photo service counter and more than 30 merchandise departments, such as apparel and accessories, a garden center, and electronics. It is located at 1550 Leucadia Blvd. It is open every day from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
The list of Encinitas schools and groups to receive money from the Walmart Foundation include:Group Amount
Diegueno Middle School$1,000
Flora Vista Elementary School$1,000
Encinitas Kiwanis Club$2,500
Boys and Girls Club of San Dieguito$1,500 Friends of the Encinitas Library $1,500
Magdalena Ecke Family YMCA$5,000
For more information about Walmart, you can visit walmart.com.