YUCCA VALLEY — “I’ve been here since 2 o’clock,” said Richard Menzie. He was the first person in a very long line of people waiting for the opening of the new Grocery Outlet Thursday morning. He was referring to 2 p.m. the previous afternoon.
Menzie was hoping to win one of the gift-certificate prizes on offer to the first customers of the Yucca Valley shop. “I’m hoping to win the $100-per-month prize. It’s every month for a year so it’s worth $1,200 total,” he said.
The next person in line wanted to be known only as Rachel. “I’ve been here since 5 p.m. It was a neat experience talking to other people,” she said.
Joyce Milstead was No. 3 in line. “I got here at 5:30. I saw my friend Richard, so I stopped too.”
Behind her, Delores Johnson was excited. “I’ve been watching this store since they started building it. I’m excited to see the ribbon being cut,” she said. “I’m more motivated to be living in Yucca Valley now they’re rebuilding it.”
Gail Wenzel was one of the few who had already been inside the store. “I was on the tour. It’s so beautiful inside and the deals are awesome,” she said. “It’s exactly what this community needed.”
Owner-operators Shawn and Kari Maloney were on hand to welcome the community at Thursday’s grand opening. “We’re extremely happy to be in the community and we appreciate all the well wishes we’ve received,” said Kari. The pair have moved to the area to open the new store. “We are originally from Wisconsin, but moved here from Hawaii,” she said.
The store’s district sales manager, Karen Stark, explained that the 34 new jobs created by the opening are almost all full-time positions with just a couple of part-time people. She did the honors of opening the festivities with a shout into a microphone, “Welcome Yucca Valley!” Stark went on to explain to the crowd that the first 200 guests would receive gift cards valued between $5 and $200.
Mayor Robert Lombardo welcomed the store’s new owners. “We are excited to welcome the new Grocery Outlet to our community. We’re glad they see the potential of our town and we thank them for being willing to take the risk of opening a new business,” he said. “The 34 new jobs are a great addition and mean a better life for those people in our community.”
Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Drozd also made an appearance. “I think it’s a great asset for Yucca Valley. Especially being near the senior apartments,” he said. “It’s nice that this building didn’t sit empty for long. They did a great job. It’s never been more beautiful.”
During the opening festivities, Kari Maloney presented a giant check in the amount of $1,500 to The Way Station founder and director Steve Cook and assistant director Dennis Potter. The Way Station ministry provides food giveaways daily in Joshua Tree.
Patti Brown of the Yucca Valley Chamber of Commerce said a few words of welcome. “The prices are nothing short of bliss. Thank you so much for choosing Yucca Valley.”
The new store employees were then asked to stand behind the owners for the actual ribbon cutting, done by Shawn Maloney. Then the Maloneys, Stark and the rest of the staff took their places inside the entrance to cheer and welcome all the people who had been so patiently waiting to shop. Each person upon entering the store was handed a gift card.
The big $1,200 prize mentioned by Menzie was a raffle. The winning name will be drawn Aug. 15.