Though the Heights-area Walmart didn't receive the warmest initial welcome, the city's first urban store is set to open at 111 Yale Street on Oct. 26 with 300 associates and a phalanx of community members rallying in support — national anthem courtesy of the Harvard Elementary School choir and custom Walmart yell from the Reagan High School cheerleaders included.
Now the only thing standing between the store and complete neighborhood harmony is the Yale Street bridge and its ever-decreasing load limit. Store manager Jeff Randall assures, however, that all of the grocer's drivers and vendors know not to cross it.
Randall, a Houston native with a disarming smile and a trademark part-time-bagger-to-management ascension story that Walmart is known for, gave CultureMap an exclusive tour around the store to point out the energy-efficient qualities and the local features.
This inner-Loop store is trying its best to cater to the Heights set, offering a gluten-free section and stocking beers from St. Arnold Brewing Company and Karbach Brewing Co.
Among the green attributes? Ample skylights with a system that automatically adjusts the indoor lights as outdoor brightness varies; motion-sensored lights everywhere from the restroom to the frozen food aisle; landscaping with drought-tolerant plants and an efficient drip irrigation system; a thorough recycling program; and a slab floor made from recycled materials like concrete and fly ash.
Its market-understanding attempts stretch past the grocery aisles, too: In the sporting goods section, there are three different types of kayaks (meant for traversing the nearby bayou) and dozens of body styles of bicycles (for riding the surrounding trails).
Houston Dynamo and Houston Texans T-shirts hang in the clothing section, and Randall is working with local schools to stock their merchandise as well. Walmart has also reached out to vendors based in the Heights to get local products onto the store's shelves.
A grand opening ceremony will take place on Friday morning.