30 years of Wal-mart

Published 2:30 am Saturday, October 14, 2017

4 locals have been with store since ‘87

Thirty years ago, on Oct. 13, 1987, in a world full of Winn-Dixies and Piggly Wigglies, Wal-mart held its grand opening in Andalusia.

During the time, Wal-mart had approximately 1,200 retail stores, and generated almost $16 billion in sales. The day was an important one for the Andalusia area, as Wal-mart hired 120 people.

Among the locals were four employees who still work with Wal-mart, Cynthia Kervin, Clarise Weaver, Susan Henderson, and Chandra Fowler.

They all helped with the initial set up of the first Wal-mart.

From manual pricing and bookkeeping to a digitally led company, these four women have seen it all.

When it opened, Wal-mart located where Marvin’s Building Materials, Pic-n-Sav, and Tractor Supply are now. Kervin recalls the hiring process at the original site, and remembers applying for her first job in pets and furniture.

She was 29.

Jim Weaver was the first Andalusia manager.

“I remember asking for a fulltime position,” Kervin said, “Mr. Weaver called me back and told me the only available positions were part time. I asked him if I worked hard, would I have a chance to get full time.”

A month later, Kervin’s plan to work hard paid off when she became the full-time department manager of pets and furniture.

Kervin now manages the pharmacy.

“My fondest memory at Wal-mart was when we played a prank on Mr. Weaver, and made him believe that Sam Walton was visiting the store,” Kervin said. But the joke might have been on them.

“Three weeks later, Mr. Walton really showed up,” Kervin said.

The Wal-mart founder visited his Andalusia location unannounced, shortly after its opening. He borrowed a car without air conditioning, drove to Andalusia, and navigated around the store for 20 minutes before anyone recognized him.

“Someone said to him, ‘You look like Sam Walton,’ “ she recalled. “He said, ‘I am Sam Walton.’ “

Weaver was 39 when she first started working at Wal-mart.

She began working in checkouts, and is now the department manager of automotive goods.

She remembers how they set up the store before its grand opening, and how they had to learn how to count back change without the help of a computer.

“It was an experience, but a lot of fun. Wal-mart really had a family atmosphere.”

Henderson, started at Wal-mart at 31, and remembered the hiring process.

“Jim Weaver called me and said, ‘It’s going to be a lot of hard work.’

“He was right,” Henderson said.

Henderson started out in the garden center, and now works in receiving. Henderson even got selected travel to Bentonville, Ark., for a picnic at Sam Walton’s house.

Wal-mart has changed a lot in there decades, and their employees changed with the company.

They looked back on the years spent in the store, and the time they dedicated towards it. They cried together, laughed together, smiled in passing down the familiar aisles of the store. From one location to another, they helped set up both. The four of them experienced two grand openings, 30 Black Fridays, 30 years of working on the holidays, 30 years of punch-ins, and long nights.

From a daily store to 24 hours, from 120 people total working to 120 in one department alone.

Walmart is more than a store. It’s a whole community, and a way of life for its employees, they said.

The company Wal-mart now has 11,695 retail stores worldwide, and has 2.3 million employees. The first Wal-mart opened in 1962.