PORTAGE | Tammy Bell has been eagerly awaiting the opening of the new Meijer store.
She was so eager, in fact, she went to the store at U.S. 6 and Willowcreek Road on Wednesday, only to be told she'd have to wait one more day.
Bell returned Thursday morning and was one of many shoppers who walked the aisles of the new store, which opened at 7 a.m.
"I'm excited. This gives more shopping options in Portage," Bell said.
Portage's Pearl Chandler was another early shopper.
"I just live down the road. I saw the sign that they were open," said Chandler, who had bagged some fresh produce. "I am so happy. They have a lot of fresh produce, and I like the name brands they carry."
The Portage store is the 201st in the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based retailer's chain. Meijer purchased the shuttered Kmart store in late December 2011 and spent more than a year renovating and remodeling the store.
Thursday, while shoppers checked out the facility, officials gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The official grand opening begins Sunday.
"It brings competition. It brings a destination for people who don't have a store like this in their town and it brings jobs," said Greater Portage Chamber of Commerce Director Terry Hufford. "They made a wise decision to come to a city on the move, and we all benefit."
Mayor James Snyder lauded the store.
"It is exciting to have this happen. It could have been a problem for the city. We are grateful to Meijer. This will create and spur more development out front and all along (U.S.) 6," Snyder said.
As part of the opening of the 190,000-square-foot store, three groups also were presented with donations. Hannah's Hope received $500; the Portage Township Food Pantry received $2,000 and the Portage Police Department's canine unit received $5,000.
"We were blessed to have a great mom and dad. For them, giving back was a way of life," said Doug Meijer, co-partner of Meijer, adding that the company supports causes relating to schools, children, health and education. "We want to help any way we can simply because it is the right thing to do."