LAKEVIEW — The controversial East Lakeview location of Walmart finally opened for business this week — earning cheers from local officials who called the mega-chain's rock-bottom prices a "game changer" for the community.
During a preview of the store Tuesday night, local aldermen and community members lauded the low cost of everyday items ranging from produce to cereal.
The more-than-30,000-square-foot Walmart Neighborhood Market, located at 2884 N. Broadway, was widely disparaged when plans for the store were first released. Lakeview residents protested the corporation for its labor practices and potential effects on nearby small businesses, according to reports at the time.
Erin Duffy, the 44th Ward's community outreach representative, commented on the marked difference in one of her own recent purchases.
"I just bought grapes for $7," she said, glancing at a bushel of grapes in the produce section at Walmart carrying a $2.98 price tag.
Two members of a Walmart Advisory Council meant to assist the controversial location with community relations attended the preview, including Jan Sumrall and Rich Eastline of South East Lake View Neighbors.
Eastline said he was "very impressed" with the store and that the low pricing makes it a "game changer" in the community.
"The low cost of brand-name items makes one gasp," he said in an email to neighbors. "If you're among the many residents who shlep their grocery carts to stores within walking distance, you will likely find the cost differences quite dramatic."
For example, a box of Kellogg's cereal that that usually costs between $4 or $5.50 at another store is priced at just $2.98 at Walmart, he said.
While the controversy over the corporation's presence did not explicity come up Tuesday, Walmart representatives talked of a desire for community feedback and of donating to local charities, such as Center on Halsted and the Howard Brown Health Center. However, they did not mention any amounts given.
Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) emphasized his support for "strong, healthy businesses, small, medium, large, extra-large" before the store's ribbon-cutting ceremony.
"What I am very very impressed with is the amount of foot traffic that we'll bring to this corner," Tunney said. "It will not only help Walmart, but it will help every other business around here ... I believe not that less is more, but more is more."
The Lakeview location debuted along with two other Neighborhood Markets — one in Little Village at 2551 W. Cermak Road, and one in the Back of the Yards at 1424 W. 47th St.
The Lakeview location is open seven days a week, from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.