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Sitting down with Walmart’s General Manager Mike King and Personnel Manager Brad Gilbert on a recent edition of WSLM’s COFFEE CLUB, here are 20-plus questions that everyone will want to know about the new store that will bring a lot of “firsts” not only to Indiana but Salem as well.

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Touring the new Walmart Store in Salem with General Manager Mike King, to my right, and Jeff Rampy and Paul Marks. Notice my pink hard hat!

1. IS SALEM A GOOD FIT FOR WALMART?

MIKE KING – Walmart is super excited…our associates and at other stores….it’s been a long time since we’ve opened a new store in Southern Indiana…16-18 years ago in New Albany.

If you think of stereotypical Norman Rockwell Walmart towns….I was in Bentonville recently and in downtown Bentonville, it’s eerily similar to Salem. The original Walmart Five and Dime. This is the perfect community for Walmart.

2. HOW IS THE CONSTRUCTION GOING? 

Mike King – It’s going fast. We’re ahead of schedule and will be ready to open on November 16. It’s amazing how they can take a store of this size and get it up that fast. It’s kind of like a home. Brick and mortar is the building. But the home is the people inside.

Walmart used to build concrete block buildings. This is concrete and rebar. It will take storm of biblical proportions. Way ahead of schedule. And this will be a Safe Place for the community.

It’s been amazing how people have treated me. I made a joke when I used to go to the store in Clarksville. I would pull over because police or firetrucks needed to get by….When I came to Salem, I had to pull over cause a combine needed to get by.

I’m a small town boy…from Charlestown…lived around here all my life. Played sports against Salem. I’m a Pirate but I’ll be cheering for Salem.

Everyone has been very welcoming.

3. HOW BIG IS THIS STORE? 

Mike King – The whole facility is one of the bigger Walmarts at 160,000 to 170,000 square feet. The sales floor will actually be as big as anything we have out there because we’ve reduced the size of the back areas and put more product out front. It will have all the bells and whistles. The engineers figure out a way to make steps less….take the product from the back room and put it out front.

4. WHAT OPPORTUNITIES DO PEOPLE HAVE AT WALMART?

Mike King – Walmart is a big company globally but it’s connected to communities. If you go to the town of Madison. They have a wonderful downtown district. They have a business district. You don’t have to take the dollars out of Washington County. When I turned 16 a long time ago. I had to drive along way to get a job. We have jobs from part time while you’re In school or retirement but we have real careers.

 

I will never stop hiring. People get promoted. It would be easy to put a team together and they would stay together till they’re 110.  We still have over a hundred jobs to fill.

And we’ve found a few people who are interested in neighboring stores….Scottsburg, Clarksville and New Albany need help.

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Mike King comes to the Salem store from 16 years experience in managing the Clarksville store – the Number 1 store in Indiana.
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Workers put the finishing touches on the new pharmacy location inside the Salem Walmart.
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Inside one of Indiana’s largest Walmart stores – about 60 days before opening!

Brad Gilbert – If you want to go into an existing store. There are kiosks in there that are very user friendly. You can go to Walmart.com/apply and Walmartstores.com/careers

We opened a hiring center at the adult learning center. Anyone of us out there can help you get your application in. You don’t have to be computer savy. It’s a really fast and easy application. Let’s us meet people we don’t know.

There’s always opportunity. Mike invests in the managing team but in every associate. The development is top notch. If you want a career and not just a paycheck, Walmart is for you. Our CEO Doug McMillan started out as a cart pusher. We’re getting great people.

Marcus Duchemin is our Pharmacy Manager and Jeff Day is our Pharmacist. We’re lucky to have them.

5. WHAT DOES WALMART DO FOR COMMUNITIES?

Mike King – I’ll tell you. You have a lot of companies they’ll do something big..they’ll sponsor THUNDER OVER LOUISVILLE, but if the church or little league comes in and asks for $100 they won’t do it. For almost 20 years…It’s amazing. I’ve seen this – whether it’s a little league, or a church team, someone’s house burns down…when the tornado went through in Pekin and Henryville, before the American Red Cross was there, Walmart was there with water, generators, etc.

I’ve got a soft spot for kids. The Children’s Miracle Network is one of my pet projects. Clarksville was one of the highest stores in the country for raising money for this charity which serves both Kosair and Rileys.

We will be involved in every little and big thing that goes on. Walmart is big on its associates donating blood. We go help in parks. We encourage our associates to be very active. A lot of people don’t see how Walmart really is. It’s a small business that just happened to be successful.

Sam started out as a small businessman in a five and dime that’s smaller than any shop on the Salem square. It’s amazing what he was able to do in a lifetime.

If someone is interested, I have a book in my office on his life story. It’s almost impossible to accomplish that today.

Brad Gilbert – It’s in our culture to give back. Community grants through the Walmart Foundation

One thing I always thought was a great thing – Helen Walton, her saying was – “It doesn’t matter what you gather in life, it matters what you scatter.”  That’s in our culture to give back to the community.

Mike King – I come from a very humble background. I have a soft spot for Shop with a Cop. We had five of them in Clarksville. The kids will come…we’ll have candy, cakes and Santa….when I say we host it, we help fund it too. The police chief here was very happy to hear that.

6. WHAT IS THE WALMART SPARK? 

Brad Gilbert – You know it’s coming…with the hiring center….but when the sign goes up…for me, it was exciting because this is my home town. When you see that on the side of the building. It’s almost one of those WOW moments.

Most people remember the squiggly in between Walmart and the star. Now we have the spark. The spark is actually our associates…that is who brings the spark to our customer!

They  are the ones that give Walmart a reason to be out there. The face of Walmart. The good thing about that is…look at that Walmart with the spark at the end of it. That’s every Walmart associate worldwide! That is a Walmart associate and it doesn’t matter if you are the cashier or the store manager or if you work in the deli — Mr. Sam believed in the associates. We’ve went back to OUR PEOPLE MAKE THE DIFFERENCE on our badges. That’s our commitment. That’s a proud moment.

7. WHAT’S A ROLLBACK?

Mike King – All that is, is that you rolled back the price. Something that was $2 you’re going to sell it for $1.50. When Walmart rolls back a price it’s for at least 90 days. We’ve taken something from an original base price and lowered it. I Love rollbacks.

8. WHAT IS SOMETHING WE DON’T KNOW ABOUT WALMART?

It’s the biggest company in the world as far as people and revenue. Number 1 in the Fortune 500. Usually either Walmart or Exxon. Started out with Sam borrowing some money from his father in law.

9. ARE YOU OPEN 365 DAYS A YEAR?

Mike King – We’re closed only one day – Christmas. Helen Walton wanted that. I wish she would have said a couple of other days, too!

10. ARE ALL STORES OPEN 24 HOURS?

Mike King – We have some stores in tough neighborhoods. They could be safety risks for our associates. There a couple in Louisville that are not 24 hours. Salem will be open 24 hours

I remember when my kids were little, they would say they needed to have a paper mache for school in the morning. Walmart will be open and you can come in and take care of that.

11. WILL THIS STORE HAVE MOST OF WHAT WE SEE IN OTHER WALMARTS?

Mike King- We will have every service…I do not know of any service we don’t have. We have a full deli bakery…full produce.

Shoes and clothing, vision center, pharmacy, hardware and paint, fabrics and crafts…as big as any in the state, alcohol, full line grocery, bakery and meat.

We’ve pretty much assembled an ‘A TEAM’

We will have a full line shoe department. Work shoes, tennis shoes to high heels. Sporting goods, guns and ammo…bait…office supply, greeting cards, lawn and garden.

The Clarksville store is the Number 1 store in Indiana. Salem will have everything that store had and more. Salem did not get cheated.

12. WHAT IS PICK UP TODAY?

Mike King – It’s really fantastic. It’s where you can go online and – where customers will find a larger assortment of items – Walmart has that same thing like Amazon, you can get online and have the desire to listen to some Saturday Night Live music and there is no CD at the store. You can order it online and have it shipped to the store.

There is a larger variety of clothing, etc. and you can order that online and have it sitting at the store waiting on you.

Our store will have a specific place at the front of the store for PICK UP TODAY….you can be in and out in minutes. Our goal is to you have you in and out in five minutes.

Brad Gilbert – If you have 10 items and 8 are from Walmart.com, we’ll have the associates go get those other 2 items and pull them off the shelf and all 10 items are ready when you come in.

13. TELL US ABOUT THE ONLINE GROCERY ORDERING?

Mike King – Walmart has rolled out a pilot, we’re too new to get it started when we open. But it will be here in about 6 month. Customers will be able to call or go online and do their grocery shopping. They can call in the order the day before and you show up and there it is. We’ll even bring it to your car. We will have special parking.

14. WHAT’S DIFFERENT ABOUT THIS FUEL STATION? 

Mike King – This will be Walmart’s own fuel station. We have fuel stations in front of some Walmarts around the US, butt they are vendors and pay Walmart rent. This is the first Walmart in Indiana and one of the first in the country where Walmart owns the fuel station. They will carry items like you see in other gas stations and you will save on gas prices….I can’t say now but it will be good. Easy access. 8 pumps

Brad Gilbert – And the fuel center opens two weeks before the store. (about the first of November)

15. WHAT SEASON WILL WE SEE SET UP IN THE STORE WHEN IT OPENS?

Mike King – Setting up for fall and Christmas. We’ll be ready for the full Christmas and holiday set. We’ve got a great plan…great prices.

16. WHAT ABOUT BLACK FRIDAY?

Mike King – I’ll begin to get rumblings about a month to six weeks out. They keep the exact times and prices pretty close to the vest. Until they have to tell me. I’ve had to go back and remake schedules because they’ve kept the details secret.

We’ll have the stuff. As a retailer, someone one will run an ad of a big screen TV for $15 and it won’t be there. We guarantee that we’ll get you an item before Christmas.

17. DO ALL WALMART STORES HAVE THE SAME THINGS?

Mike King – As far as electronics, yes. We have some variety in foods, etc. and some stores will get more, depending on the volume we don’t know what we’ll do yet.

18. HOW FIRM IS THE OPENING DATE?

Mike King – We will open the 16th — failure is not an option! We’ve been blessed with this construction crew. You worry about the folks you’re going to work with. But this is the 11th store I’ve opened. I worked at the Clarksville Walmart for 16 years and it’s the number 1 store in Indiana.

I have opened 3 stores for Walmart and 8 for Winn Dixie. I’ve been in places where they were painting the parking lot the night before…..not this store!

19. WHAT SETS THIS STORE APART FROM OTHERS?

 

Brad Gilbert – The colors are different. You see the orange and blue on the outside. Only a few stores have that color scheme and style. This store has all the latest and greatest. First, the ceilings are lower. If you had a balloon get away from you, you had to get a scissor lift to get it. Now it’s lower. Saves on heating and cooling. Also the roof is pitched.

Mike King – All through the store we have ecologically friendly lights…LED lights. Low ceilings. 12 foot higher in Clarksville for nothing. You’re heating 12 foot for nothing. The nice thing for customers, it will be cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

In the bakery…we will have some unbelievable cake decorators…they can do wedding cakes. Most stores have one decorator. We’ll have 4-5 people.

We will bake bread fresh every day. French bread, artisan breads, etc. And a lot less expensive than our competitors. We’ll have French bread for $1.

In the Dairy departmen, the walls are doors that actually slide so you can stock from behind and keep items rotated in stock.

Every minute something is out off refrigeration you lose shelf life.  You get something at home that says I’ve got a month to use that. If it’s being stocked out in the store….you’ll get a gallon of milk and it says it’s in date, but somewhere somebody got it out of refrigeration and it’s sat around and you’ve lost some of that time.

Our dairy and meat will never come out on the sales floor, to ensure you get the best product.

20. WHAT IS MONEY RECYCLE? 

Mike King – Money Recycle is something that will be in our cash offices. They take the till and they dump it and it counts all the money. Pretty neat technology. We do have a coin star, too, for the customers. You can dump change in and it will give you money.

21. I HEARD THERE IS SOMETHING NEW FOR ASSOCIATES!!?

Brad Gilbert – Associate wise…the break room area is something new to this store. Walmart is very committed to this being nice. There will be state of the art fridges and a freezer for the associates to store their items. There will be electronic charging stations to charge phones and tablets. There will be couches and big screen tvs. I’m excited about that space. It’s beautiful.

22. WHAT HAS SALEM’S REACTION TO WALMART? 

 

Brad Gilbert – We have a lot of Salem folks driving to other Walmarts. We are putting them to work here.

Mike King – Salem is a great community. I think it’s going to be a perfect marriage. Walmart is not anti-small business. I’ve had business owners come in and talk to me. Walmart will help them. Instead of driving out of the county, people will stay in Salem. When I opened the store in Clarksville on Veteran’s Parkway, there was Walmart and Coyle Chevrolet. That was it. Now look at it.

Walmart helps small business because it drives traffic. Target moved closer to Walmart in Clarksville instead of the other way around. There will be things I don’t carry. If I don’t have it, I’ll send them to Ace Hardware. I met Bob (Strange)…He’s a good man. I  don’t want a single business to close. We’ll get our business. And we’ll get it from folks spending it other places. But if you go to Clarksville now…look at the small businesses around there…they are flourishing.

And competition is good. For some of the larger businesses in Salem, it will cause them to up their game. I’m a former athlete, if you play weak competition, you don’t play well. You play strong competition, you raise your game.

23. HOW IS THE AUTO CENTER DIFFERENT? 

Mike King – We’ll have tires, oil changes, windshield wipers, batteries…you name it. Outside the store we have hitching posts for the amish…six of them plus water for the horses.

Most automotive places are dark…This is the first one we’ve seen with windows.

One of the best things…the latest technology. One of the best things. The number one thing that can go wrong during an oil change, is that the oil pan can be stripped. We have an extrusion system where it sucks the oil out. Take off the filter. Put the new filter on and put the oil in. You can get in and out in 15-20 minutes.

You can get your oil changed, shop and come back and get it. Instead of setting in a [lube store]. Time is our most important thing. I don’t want to waste time.

 

WSLM EXCLUSIVE – GET THE FIRST LOOK INSIDE THE SALEM WALMART HERE – https://youtu.be/oYT-02k-OTY