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Walmart Plans New Visalia Grocery Store

ICE Builders of Ventura and others are accepting bids for a new 40,000 sf “Neighborhood Walmart Grocery Store” at Demaree and Houston in Visalia. The bids are due June 25 on the $4 million project.  The bidding instructions available at the Tulare/Kings Builders Exchange indicate work will start right away and all work needs to be completed December 10.

Walmart spokesperson Delia Garcia said she could not comment on the news but “you should stay tuned over the next week or two” indicating an announcement is pending.The proposed store even carries its official Walmart store number#5635-00. But Walmart likes to do its new store development under the radar, the likely reason why the company has filed for its building permit and submitted store plans with the city without disclosing who they are.

The project has been rumored for many months but this week city building official Greg Adams says “the permit is very close to being issued” and that the plans carry the name WD Partners.WD Partners works with Walmart on projects.

“It’s pretty unusual the plans don’t show who they are” offers Adams.

Third Walmart In Visalia

This would be the first smaller-format Walmart grocery store built in the South Valley and the third in Visalia that will now sell groceries.
That’s because before this year the only Walmart location in town on Noble did not sell groceries although there are plans to expand the space to sell groceries that have been filed. In May, Walmart opened a second store in Visalia on south Mooney in the former Costco location that is “superstore” – selling general merchandise as well as a full line of groceries.

The east Visalia Noble Ave Walmart expansion is being litigated in Tulare County Superior Court right now but eventually the court is expected to allow Walmart to expand this store – becoming the second  Walmart in town Visalia to sell groceries.

Now with a smaller format store to open north of 198 around the end of year – that makes it three Walmart outlets that will sell groceries in Visalia, fairly well covering the town, geographically.

To date, Visalia’s supermarket scene has been dominated by Modesto- based Save Mart, a union store, with five locations in town including their warehouse store. Unlike most cities, Visalia does not have a the complement of national chains like Von’s, Albertson’s or Ralph’s. The rest of the competition here have only single locations in town.

Arguably, the surge by Walmart into groceries in Visalia hurts Save Mart the most,already struggling this summer with their union contract and a threat of a strike.

Both Save Mart and the grocery union have made it no secret they consider the entrance of nonunion Walmart into their turf as a big problem.It was Save Mart employees that spoke against the expansion of the Noble store at the Visalia public hearing approved by the city  council and now subject of a lawsuit by a group that does not name who they are.

Save Mart has just closed a store in Elk Grove in recent days citing the economy and tough competition. Perhaps not by coincident Walmart is expected to open a ‘Neighborhood’ store in the same town later this year.

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