NEWTON FALLS - The first Shopko retail store and pharmacy in the Mahoning Valley and one of the first in Ohio officially opened for business Thursday morning.
Hundreds of locals turned out for the ribbon cutting at the state Route 534 store, a location previously occupied by Pamida. The next-closest Shopko location is in Minerva, the store manager said.
The Newton Falls 35,000-square-foot location is one of 193 Pamida stores included in a merger with Green Bay, Wis.-based Shopko last year.
The union of the two Midwest-based general merchandise retail chains created one of the largest U.S. retailers serving smaller, rural communities. The merged company is projected to generate nearly $3 billion in annual revenue with locations in 22 states and more than 20,000 employees.
In Newton Falls, the merger meant all the Pamida full- and part-time sales associates were retained, and some of the 30 temporary workers brought on to help with the conversion likely will be retained permanently as well, bringing the number of hourly employees up to about 20, said Shopko Hometown assistant manager Scot Stover of Warren.
Stover and his supervisor, manager J.T. Whitman, also were retained in the merger.
Shoppers visiting the store Thursday said they were pleased with the layout and the product offerings.
Nicole Brewer of Newton Falls was checking out the jewelry display and noted the store seemed to offer more selection and name brands than Pamida.
Roger Finley, also of Newton Falls, was looking over the Nike brand tennis shoes when he echoed Brewer's thoughts.
''They've got more stuff. I wanted to see if it was like Pamida, which didn't have any selection,'' Finley said.
The Newton Falls location is billed as a "Shopko Hometown" retail format, developed recently to augment the company's larger store models. It carries much of the same national name-brand products as the larger Shopko locations, but on a smaller scale targeted at smaller markets like Newton Falls.
Whitman said all prescriptions previously filled by Pamida have been transferred to the Shopko Hometown pharmacy here.