PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - When Hurricane Katrina's winds and water devastated Pass Christian, it took out more than just homes and businesses. It forced the city's biggest tax payer to close its operation. Now, more than four years later, Walmart is set to reopen.
"I think we're just ready to get those doors open so we can start taking care of our customers," Store Manager Rob Richardson said.
Managers say the new, 24 hour-store features an electronics department twice the size of other Walmarts in South Mississippi. The new store also boasts wider, clutter free aisles and a lay-out where everyday items like groceries and health and beauty supplies are grouped together and easier to find.
But before customers come in Wednesday morning, Walmart associates, their families and invited guests took a little time out to celebrate. A band played at Monday night's store preview while people ate and danced.
An appreciation ceremony was also held where new managers were pinned and associates were recognized for their hard work getting the store ready in just 35 days.
For Kim Claycomb and the 35 employees who worked at the old store, the reopening is a heartfelt homecoming. After the storm, she worked at the Walmart in Slidell, Louisiana.
"It's very emotional; I'm glad to be home, very glad to be home," Claycomb said.
"Every time I talk about it, it kind of chokes me up," Operations Manager Dennis Cameron said.
Cameron was there for the store's first opening in 2003.
"Tear-jerking, it's heartfelt," Cameron said. "I'm so happy for the associates that are coming back."
The store's return is also helping the community come back with 300 new jobs and plenty of anticipated tax revenue.
"The community needed the store too, so it's making everybody happy. I just want everybody to come to show them that there was a bigger purpose for putting the store back," Claycomb said.
As part of Monday's celebration, the store also awarded $25,000 in grants to nine community organizations.
The Pass Christian Walmart reopens to the public Wednesday, October 14th at 8am.