A large crowd gathered at the Walmart Supercenter to mark the grand opening of a project that finally became a reality after being in the works for over 14 years.

The Supercenter is the first building of the 26-acre Mitchell Ranch Shopping Center which holds the promise of new stores and restaurants.

The project was held up since it was proposed in 2007 by a series of legal challenges from a group calling itself Citizens for Ceres and attorney Brett Jolley, notorious for suing Walmart projects up and down California. The project was first proposed by the Florida-based Regency Realty Group but then the Walmart Corporation bought the site. Citizens for Ceres eventually lost all their appeals.

The 8 a.m. ceremony included the singing of the National Anthem and raising of the American flag by Ceres military veterans and a blessing by a priest from the St. Jude’s Catholic Church located across the street.

The new Supercenter is a sprawling 187,000-square-foot store with an expanded selection of groceries. Included are a Dunkin’ Donuts shop, drive-thru pharmacy, deli and a bakery. The new store offers clothing, cosmetics, gardening supplies, a full pharmacy capable of delivering vaccinations and a prototype vision center.

Also available is online grocery service with a covered customer pickup area on the east side of the building. About a quarter of the Supercenter’s employee force will be dedicated to fulfilling online shopping orders placed online.

Approximately 219 employees from the existing store at Hatch and Mitchell were transferred to the new store at Service and Mitchell. Additional employees were hired to expand the total number of associates to 430.

“They’ve worked diligently for the last six weeks getting fixtures set, stocking the merchandise and getting it ready for you guys to shop,” Supercenter store manager Alma Valadez told the crowd. “They are very excited to show you what they accomplished.”

The ceremony included Valadez presenting ceremonial checks worth $8,000 to a number of community groups inside and outside of Ceres. Lucas Elementary School, which is located right behind the new Supercenter, received a $1,500 grant. The Stanislaus County STARs were presented $2,500 for crime prevention programs and the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department received $750. Students at Richard Moon Primary School in Waterford received $2,500 and the Soroptimist International of Turlock received a $750 grant.

Walmart Plus members will have access to designated checkout lines.

“No other stores have that,” said Valadez.

It will also have a larger assortment of Hispanic products.

“There are a lot of different options you’ll see here compared to other stores,” Valadez said.

Representatives of a number of elected officials spoke. Lisa Mantarro Moore, a Ceres resident representing state Assemblyman Adam Gray called the opening of the store “a really big moment.” She noted how the sun broke through the gloomy week of fog “which speaks to this project.”

Councilwoman Linda Ryno said prior to being elected to the Ceres City Council she worked as a Planning Department staff member with the city of Ceres.

“I was there from the very beginning when Walmart approached the city and we as staff people and most of the community wanted the Walmart here,” said Ryno. “There was a faction that didn’t. I’m happy to say that Walmart persevered and we’re here today and I’m even more happy to say that I’ve got my credit card and I’m ready to shop.”

Ceres Mayor Javier Lopez said the grand opening was “a great moment for the entire community.” He pointed out that the giant balloons number 1983 for the new store number was actually the year he was born.

“Congratulations on opening your new store,” said the mayor. “You’ve chosen a perfect location. The city of Ceres welcomes you and wishes your business unending success from the grand opening date to many years of operations.”

Besides the Walmart Supercenter, plans call for 10 other retail shops totaling 114,162 square feet, including three other major tenants and four smaller shops as well as a stand-alone retail building and two to three new restaurants.

The construction of the Supercenter prompted the city to place two temporary signal lights at the Mitchell/Highway 99 interchange. The temporary signals – installed at Walmart’s expense – will be in service until the new interchange is modified. 

Opening the new Supercenter creates a vacancy at its old store at Hatch and Mitchell roads.

The Ceres Walmart Supercenter will be open daily from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

The stores may be reached at 209-538-1743.