Wal-Mart breaks ground in the Pass

PASS CHRISTIAN, MS. (WLOX)--Pass Christian's mayor opened up a bottle of champagne Tuesday afternoon to celebrate Wal Mart's return to his city.

An $11 million supercenter should be open by this time next year.

One of Wal Mart's regional vice presidents emceed today's groundbreaking ceremony.

He opened the event with four words.

Tracy Rosser exclaimed, "Mr. Mayor, we're here."

In a town struggling to keep its budget in the black, Wal Mart's return felt like Mardi Gras.

Mississippi's first lady was on the Pass Christian shoreline Tuesday afternoon.

"And any day the first lady comes to town and she's got Wal Mart with her, I can't even describe how great a day it is," exclaimed Pass Christian Mayor Chipper McDermott.

Rattling behind a collection of Pass Christian leaders were the machines brought in to dig up what's left of the original Wal Mart.

Over the next few months, construction teams will recycle old asphalt and turn it into a new parking lot.

Gwenn Voigts is with the Pass Christian Chamber of Commerce. "I think people have been waiting for this for a long time," she said.

By next fall, a smaller, more efficient Wal Mart Supercenter will sit along Highway 90.

Brian Thomas is the local Wal Mart executive who will oversee this store. "You're going to like this one even better," he told about 150 Pass Christian residents who came to the groundbreaking ceremony. "The design of this store is really cool."

Wal Mart's groundbreaking is considered a major event in this community.

Voigts joked, "It will be so nice not to have to go to another city to grocery shop."

Tracy Rosser is one of Wal Mart's regional vice presidents. "We help people save money so they can live better. And what better area needs it than this area," he said.

In the early days after Katrina, people worried that Pass Christian's largest sales tax collector would either leave the city, or abandon its Highway 90 location.

But Wal Mart kept a promise it made to Mayor McDermott, bought an additional five acres of land to move its store about 500 feet to the north, and designed a new store. Pass Christian's mayor likened Wal Mart to a thoroughbred.

"You have a class horse here today, the big horse Wal Mart, I can guarantee you that," said McDermott.

In horse racing, the winner receives a blanket of roses.

For returning to Pass Christian, Wal Mart received heartfelt thanks, a banner that said, "Welcome to Wal Mart Pass Christian campus", and a bottle of champagne.

The one thing you won't see at the Pass Christian Wal Mart is the much talked about oyster bar.

Apparently, Wal Mart's architect told the mayor he was designing an oyster bar into his plans.

And the mayor told the media.

But Wal Mart brass dropped the idea.