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This morning, Chicago's newest Walmart Express store opened in the heart of River North under the Brown Line El station. At 225 W Chicago Ave - one block from Racked 38 Members, Blake, Luminaire, Elements, Racked Shop of the Year winner, Lissa and luxe lighting showroom, Lightology. Interested in how this store will look and function in the neighborhood we head on over to Franklin at Chicago Ave to be the first to find out.
6:00AM Here we are at the crack of dawn stalking the action at Franklin and Chicago beneath the Brown Line El station. We thought they opened right about now... the same time Walmart in Lakeview opens... apparently they don't.
The sign on the door letting us know of the opening time
6:30AM Supporters of the River North Residents Association, Chicago Neighborhood First, Local First, and UFCW are starting to gather. They called Channel 2 and are voicing their concerns of "temporary jobs", "cheap produce", and being "too competitive with local business".
Members of The River North Residents Association
6:58AM The neighborhood association has stopped with the megaphones and Channel 2 seem to relocated. There are more people standing around, presumably waiting for the doors to be unlocked.
A scattered crowd wiring for the doors to be unlocked
7:15 We're in and walking around. This store, unlike the Lakeview or the Loop locations though is more naturally lit with two skylights running the length of the building. Like those said other locations, as a Walmart rep just told us you'll find more muted colors, an urban feel with exposed beams, some exposed brick, stainless steel finishes and quasi-industrial shelving.
The coffee bar and "ready to go" sections
At the entry, you'll see a selection of "ready to go" items similarly found at the State & Randolph Walgreens including a coffee bar, soups, lunch stuff and a few microwaves you can use to heat things. There's an entire aisle of produce and everything else you'd find in a grocery store including travel toiletries, water bottles, baking supplies, Friskies Party Mix cat treats, socks, t-shirts, stamps, prescriptions, and even a travel-size toiletries section.Product offerings from the pet aisle and the personal care and beauty aisle
7:37AM Members of the groups opposing Walmart have INFILTRATED the store and are leaving propaganda hidden amongst the product!
An anti-Walmart flyer found behind Duncan Hines cake mix
8:30AM The store is pretty crowded, people seem perturbed by the neighborhood association's aggression yet are undeterred from shopping. We feel like the negative energy surrounding the intersection below the El tracks could use a celestial healing session, so, in that spirit, we buy a pineapple, the international symbol for friendship.
A pineapple from Walmart Express
8:47AM One of this new Walmart's employees, Bonita, is standing on the sidewalk giving away Walmart branded tote bags and water bottles outside of the store. She reassures us that the store sells stamps and we can get our prescriptions filled here.
· Walmart [Official Site]