PUBLISHED: 4:41 PM on Wednesday, July 4, 2007
Home Depot holds grand opening, changing Juneau's retail scenario
Six a.m. may be too early for some but that didn't stop the 200 customers who showed up for the grand opening at Home Depot on Thursday, May 28. Festivities continued throughout the day, including free pastries and coffee, free drawings and a "spin-the-wheel and win a prize" event. Larger events included a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. and family night at 5 p.m. The 102,000 square foot store located at 5201 Commercial Blvd. will be open Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m.-10 p.m. and Sundays from 7 a.m.-9 p.m.

Photos by Amanda Gragert
  Juneau School Board member Mary Becker holds a check for $2,000, donated by Home Depot to be used for the Nature Trail enhancement program.
"It's really nice to see the community here. It was exciting early this morning when the doors flew open and everybody poured in-it shows the impact the store will have on the community," said employee Richard Millay.

The Garden Center has ranked the most popular section during the first day, according to store manager Troy Wolfinbarger.

"Everybody has been attacking the plants-it's definitely where all the sales are generating," he said.

Building material, hardware and appliances have followed in sales.

"I haven't sold as much lumber as I thought we would," Wolfinbarger said.

He said they've had great comments overall.

"A lot of people are impressed with the selection we're bring to the community," he said.

People have been giving employees lists of what they would like to see, he said.

"We're writing that down and doing are best to react to it," Wolfinbarger said.

Photos by Amanda Gragert
  CBJ Deputy Mayor Merrill Sanford, middle, celebrates at the opening ceremony Thursday, June 28, as he holds the reciprocating saw used to cut the wood planked "ribbon" provided by store manager Troy Wolfinbarger, right.
A highlight of the ribbon-cutting ceremony was Wolfinbarger handing Juneau School Board member Mary Becker a check for $2,000. The donated money will be used for the Nature Trail enhancement program.

"I'm just super pleased to have Home Depot join our community. I'm especially pleased to have Home Depot give a community school grant to Dzantiki' Heeni Middle School," said Mary Becker, of Juneau School Board.

"I want to publicly thank them for recognizing our community and students," she said.

Deputy Mayor Merrill Sanford, of City and Borough, proceeded to cut the ribbon with wood scissors. Wolfinbarger surprised the crowd with a reciprocating saw to cut the wood planked "ribbon." Giving Sanford a pair of goggles before wielding the saw, he said, "safety is always first!"

Several customers roaming aisles and loading up their carts were quite pleased Home Depot is the new retail addition to Juneau; many voiced concerns for local competitors.

"It's very well done; they have everything," said Steve Finsen, of Juneau. "The local long-term businesses will feel the bite-competition is a good thing, it boosts the economy and helps the consumer."

"I've been in Home Depots before, (Juneau store) it's a different format than others. Compared to other stores, it's very nice. I can see myself coming here a lot," said local Dennis Mickle. "I think the other businesses will need to be more specialized to survive," he said.

Eight-year-old Igor Healy enjoyed himself at the grand opening, while picking out a present for his father. "I like it that they had food here. I think my dad would really like it here; I think it was a good idea to build Home Depot," Healy said.

Local Katie Sullivan first impression was, "'oh, my god'-it's awesome!" she said. She was impressed with the service, quantity, quality and prices of items, she said. She is looking forward to classes they'll be offering.

Other browsing customers were dubious. "I have mixed emotions. I'm thinking about the folks (local businesses) that have been here and established in Juneau since the beginning," said longtime local Florence Hansen.

"We grew up here when there were only 6,000 people, and I'm wondering if it's growing too fast," she said.

Several businesses in Juneau including Valley Lumber, Western Auto and Alaska Industrial Hardware Inc. declined to comment on Home Depot's impact in the community.

"I really believe that Home Depot will change the retail environment. It's the type of store that has a great variety, and their (customer's) perception is prices will be really low," said owner Charlie Williams, of Valley Paint.

Williams believes in a "lost leader" theory, in that stores create a perception of low prices.

"Home Depot is going to do a similar thing; once you get them in there, their prices will slowly go up," he said. "I don't believe there's enough money for them to survive. They'll suffer the same consequences that any of the big box stores have suffered. "I believe I offer a pretty valuable asset to the community. I've been selling paint since 1977; I think we know all the ins and outs of the paint world. That's part of our job is to provide customers information so they can successfully complete their job with the least amount of problems. I think that will really help us survive," he said.