Sun. Dec 3rd, 2023

The day for which so many have waited has come. Huntingdon finally has a Wal-Mart.
Monday night, several hundred people got the opportunity to see what many county residents have been anxiously awaiting for years. Monday evening, about 6 p.m., a steady flow of traffic, headed east on Route 22, down Warrior Ridge was bearing right … and they weren’t exiting on to Route 26.
By invitation only, hundreds of county shoppers converged on Smithfield Commercial Park, the site of in-progress “Smithfield Towne Centre” and Huntingdon’s own Wal-Mart. It was a “sneak peak” of the new facility for those guests, just hours before the actual ribbon cutting, slated for the next morning.
“You’ve waited patiently; some of you have become members of our team and have worked very hard to get this store ready to go,” said store manager Don Straub, addressing the huge crowd gathered near the main entrances. “We thank all of you, and we appreciate your hard work and patience.”
The Huntingdon Area High School Marching Band entertained at what felt like a “pep rally” of sorts. Wal-Mart managers, employees and guests alike were, at times, clapping their hands and cheering. At one point, store manager Sean Cassatt led the crowd in the “Wal-Mart Cheer,” which went a little something like this: “Gimmie a ‘W,’” “W!” “Gimmie an ‘A,’” “A!” “Gimmie a ‘L,’” “L!” (You get the idea!) …
“This is great,” said well-known area radio personality Terry Bitner, who is one of those area residents who “joined the Wal-Mart team.”
“I’m working here part-time,” Bitner said. “It’s really a great place to work.
“It’s great to see all of these people turn out,” he continued. “People have been waiting a long time for (Wal-Mart) and it’s here.”
Bitner also added, “Go Steelers” at some point. During the ceremony, attended by people like state Rep. Larry O. Sather; Jeff Shaffer, Wayne Mateer and Mary Hollenbaugh of Smithfield Township and county commissioners Charles States, Roy Thomas and R. Dean Fluke, Wal-Mart reps detailed the company’s many community outreach programs.
Then, they got out some big checks.
“We want to let you all know we appreciate your support of this store,” said Straub. “We’re happy to be a part of this community.”
According to a news release, the Wal-Mart Corporation gives $22 million monthly toward community betterment. Straub’s team demonstrated its interest in the community at large by passing out a total of $35,000 in charitable donations, distributed between 12 regional agencies and organizations.
Those who benefited from the contributions were: The United Way, $1,000; Children’s Miracle Network, $1,000; Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Huntingdon County, $2,000; the Huntingdon County Historical Society, $2,000; Habitat for Humanity of Huntingdon County, $3,000; Salvation Army, $3,000; NAACP of Blair County, $3,000; The Huntingdon County Chamber of Commerce, $3,000; Smithfield Fire Co., $3,000; Huntingdon County PRIDE, $4,000; American Red Cross, $4,000; and the Huntingdon Area School District, $6,000.
Each gift was presented in the form of a large “Happy Gilmore” check.
Following the ceremony, folks got their first glimpse of the store. While no shopping went on, the aisles were filled with curious area residents, led on personal tours by Wal-Mart associates. The guests were even treated to a six-foot by four-foot “Wal-Mart Birthday Cake,” along with other refreshments.
“It’s about time,” said one gentleman in the crowd, “window shopping” with his wife. The couple took turns pointing things out to one other, each making a “mental shopping list” for Tuesday.
So now it’s official. Early this morning, the automatic doors slid open on the nation’s newest Wal-Mart Supercenter for the first time. Even with a chilly rain falling, it was reminiscent of “Black Friday,” as shoppers lined up outside the store’s main entrance to get closer to the front of the line, waiting for the locks to become “unlocked.”
Some of the same dignitaries from the night before returned to make things official. The county commissioners, the Smithfield Township Supervisors and Rep. Sather were joined by U.S. Congressman Bill Shuster, there to help Straub and his team christen the store and cut the ribbon.
“Our associates are here to serve you,” Straub said to the early morning crowd.
The Huntingdon Wal-Mart employs 320 people, a mix of full- and part-timers. Besides its famous retail selection, Wal-Mart offers a complete lawn and garden center, a bakery, a tire and lube center, a vision care center, a Subway restaurant and a full-service grocery store, among other goods and services. The store will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

By Rick