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After years of waiting and political discord over wages, two of the six Walmart stores planned for D.C. opened their doors to local shoppers this morning.
Yesterday evening Mayor Vincent Gray toured the 74,000-square-foot Walmart store at H Street and New Jersey Avenue NW, and this morning he joined other local dignitaries to cut the ribbon on the larger 103,000-square-foot store located at Georgia Avenue and Missouri Avenue NW.
Several hundred Brightwood residents such as Vanselle Mitchell came looking for bargains, and said they welcomed the big box store because they no longer had to go dozens of miles to get what they needed.
"It means a lot to me and I'm sure it means a lot to many of the neighbors, because we have our own Walmart," Mitchell said.
The openings will come after years after the retailer first expressed interest in D.C. In the mid-2000s, Walmart explored the option of expanding into the city, but faced a skeptical reception from legislators who tried to cap the size of big-box stores.
They also come after the Arkansas-based retailer threatened to cut three of the planned stores if a bill mandating a $12.50 minimum wage for employees became law. Gray vetoed the bill, and the D.C. Council was unable to override it.
While elected officials are cheering the retailer's arrival, labor activists protested outside the Georgia Avenue store this morning to express their concerns over wages and the possibility that local businesses will not be able to compete with Walmart.
"When you apply for Walmart, they give you an application for food stamps and Medicaid because they know that with their low wages you will be entitled to the city's subsidy," said Debbie Hanrahan, a protest organizer.
Each of the two stores will employ 300 people, and Walmart officials say that close to 70 percent of those are D.C. residents.
The stores opened at 8:00 a.m., and will be open from 6 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week.