Tom Harvel, store manager at Wal-Mart, addressed employees and members of the community during the grand re-opening and ribbon cutting Friday. (Daily Star photo/JESSICA SIEFF)
Tom Harvel, store manager at Wal-Mart, addressed employees and members of the community during the grand re-opening and ribbon cutting Friday. (Daily Star photo/JESSICA SIEFF)

Archived Story

Wal-Mart completes renovation project

Published 9:08am Saturday, April 24, 2010

Niles Daily Star

A crowd of employees and members of the community gathered early Friday morning to celebrate the official “re-grand opening” of the Wal-Mart Supercenter following completion of the store’s 12-week renovation project.

But behind the bright blue paint, the newly hung signs, widened aisles and redesigned pharmacy was a message of community involvement and impact Niles’ Wal-Mart has maintained since it opened up on South 11th Street 17 years ago.

“It certainly takes a lot of people to make that happen,” store manager Tom Harvel said, addressing the audience.

The store is being called a “glimpse of the company’s next generation of store design and customer experience” by the company.

More updates to the facility include enhanced lighting and low shelving as well as a redesigned layout, with some departments being moved around for better efficiency and an expansion to the electronics department.

In an announcement prior to the grand re-opening, Harvel said, “we listened to our customers and have redesigned the store t make shopping at Wal-Mart even easier.”

Recognizing the new look, Harvel also touched on some of the stores time-honored practices, that of giving back to the community and continuing its growth.

Harvel said the Niles store added close to 50 new jobs with the renovation on a permanent basis both in full- and part-time positions.

“Over night,” Harvel said, speaking of work done during the renovation, “you just can’t imagine the amount of work that was done by these people. It’s just amazing.

“That’s a lot of dedication,” he said.

The additional employment is a significant impact for a community struggling like many across the country.

Giving back to the community in various ways, Harvel said is “bigger than anything we do.”

He mentioned much of the material brought in as part of the renovation was recycled material and described the process of how the material pulled out of the store, right down to shovelfuls of tile, would be sent off to be recycled and reused as well.

The store also showed their support to local organizations, presenting $500 grants to the Brian Parker Cancer Memorial to support cancer research and local families in the community; the Niles Township Fire Department to be put toward station equipment; Niles Community Schools for the purchase of equipment for a “motor skills room” at Northside Child Development Center; the Junior Achievement of Michiana; St. Mary’s Community Food Bank; and the Four Flags Area Chamber of Commerce.

Representatives from each of the recipients were in attendance including Niles Superintendent Doug Law and incoming superintendent Richard Weigel, Niles Township Fire Chief Gary Brovold and Chamber executive director Ron Sather.

“We are so please to have this beautiful updated store in our community,” Sather said. “And it is our store.”

Chairman of the board with the chamber, Brandywine Superintendent John Jarpe commended Wal-Mart associates for their influence on students who either hold jobs at the store or spend their time there.

“You associates set a wonderful example of customer service for those young people,” he said. “And that’s something they will carry with them the rest of their lives. As an educator, you all are educators too.”

The store now employs more than 300 associates.

“We’ve tripled the business, we’ve tripled the number of associates,” Harvel said.

The renovation and the official unveiling may be over but Harvel said there is still some fine tuning to do at the store and said the as a company, Wal-Mart has an aggressive plan for the future.

Meanwhile, the store plans to focus on its customers, hoping they’ll welcome the changes at the Niles store.
“Customer experience,” Harvel said is important. From the corporate vision to the associate on the floor.
“If you lose sight of that,” he said. “You’re going to lose business.”

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