|Plaza ready for Walmart grocery store
Construction begins at old Pacific Market site
Feb. 20, 2011 was a dark day for patrons of Pacific Market in Rohnert Park, when the long-time local grocer closed the doors to its location in Mountain Shadows Plaza. Neighborhoods in the area had to shop elsewhere, and many who had worked hard on the movement hoping to save the market were left disappointed and furious.
But the surrounding neighborhoods may not have to wait too long for another market in the same locale. Construction on the 33,000 sq. ft. site has begun, paving the way for a Walmart Neighborhood Market, a smaller grocery than its superstore counterpart. Walmart hopes to not only provide 65 new jobs in the area, but also provide an anchor business for the shopping center once more and bring that part of the community back together.
The store will have a dairy section, fresh produce from local growers, an organic section, health and beauty aisles, dry and frozen goods and a pharmacy. They plan to give $31 million back in charitable donations to the State of California, not only provide local jobs, but also to include competitive pay as well as health care coverage for employees.
Many local businesses within Mountain Shadows Plaza, which grew increasingly quiet and empty after Pacific Market went out of business, are ecstatic about once more gaining an anchor store within their shopping center.
“In every shopping center, you need a draw,” comments Puny Paws owner Susan Yasinitsky, who has been in the center for four years and experienced a distressing decline in patrons. “It will probably instantly double my business. The hard part is spreading the word about a business when there’s no main grocery shopping center over here, and Walmart has the name and money to do some really heavy advertising.”
The will of the community seemed to be that the center remain a grocery store, if anything were ever to move in, and Walmart is granting those wishes. They have also reached out to nearby Marguerite Hahn Elementary School to get students in the future store for tours and health education information.
“We’re really excited about them coming in,” says Straw Hat Pizza owner, Yolanda Ramirez. She has been in the plaza location for nearly 20 years. “We’re hoping for new traffic and new customers.”
Walmart hopes to stay true to Sonoma County’s status as a major local produce export by including local farming into their curriculum. They’ve been participating in the local food bank, Rotary Club events and working to become a positive community partner with Rohnert Park and Cotati.
“It’s a unbelievable,” says Rohnert Park Chair of the Planning Commissioner Gerard Guidice. “It’s a whole different business model for them. They’re using local producers and local merchants and organic produce. We’re very excited. Pacific Market left a huge void with no local market for this neighborhood.”
The planning commission had kept close with the businesses in Mountain Shadows Plaza through the years, encouraging them to invite property owners to get permits for the vacant building in advance. There were rumors of a Trader Joe’s; the Panning Commission even contacted them directly, but they were not interested.
“Maybe they feel that with the expansion of Rohnert Park, they would take a chance and expand their business,” says Guidice of Walmart. “I honestly wish some of the other big businesses around here would give to us like Walmart has been.”
The Walmart Neighborhood Market will be opening its doors sometime this coming fall.