“We had the best day of any store in the history of Bi-Mart,” said store manager Ty Schmidt. “I didn’t expect quite this big of a turnout, and so far it has been nothing but positive.”
The customer crush continued Friday, with customers, such as Jerry and Darlene Freamon of Brookings, looking for good deals on canned food and sporting goods.
“We’re here for their grand opening,” Jerry said.
“That and their great prices,” Darlene added.
The two plan on shopping at Bi-Mart weekly at least.
“I think they’ll have a better stock of outdoor stuff,” Jerry said. “I think it is good that they opened a store here.”
On Thursday, about 45 minutes before the store opened to the public at 9 a.m., a Bi-Mart executive gathered employees around and asked, “Are you ready to own it?”
The response was cheers and applause from the staff of the employee-owned company, most of whom have spent four weeks stocking the discount chain’s 73rd store.
Just minutes later – after Schmidt cut two ceremonial ribbons – the new Bi-Mart workers were helping customers find bargains.
The first sale went to Brookings-Harbor Chamber of Commerce President Les Cohen, who bought a 32-inch LCD TV for the Chamber office.
Bi-Mart President Rich Truett told the crew he was proud of the chain’s newest store and the work they had done to get it open.
“Now,” he told them, “we want to hear the cash registers ring, because there’s nothing wrong with making money.”
Board Chairman Marty Smith told the new store crew they are now part of the 57-year legacy of Bi-Mart, founded with a store that opened in 1955 in Yakima, Wash. Bi-Mart became a chain in 1962 with its second store in Eugene, where company headquarters are today.
The Eugene location is evident in part of this week’s grand opening gifts. The first 500 people entering the store this week get University of Oregon Ducks shirts or hats.
Smith also reminded the crowd that Bi-Mart tried to come to Brookings nearly 20 years ago, but the property being considered was sold to Fred Meyer instead.
“It’s taken 20 years, but we finally have a store in Brookings.”
For his part, Schmidt thanked “everyone I’ve had to deal with” in getting the store up and running. A Bi-Mart employee since he was 18, Schmidt is now 26, and comes to Brookings from the Grants Pass store.
Director of Marketing Don Leber also thanked and introduced many of the city officials and contractors who have worked on the project. The location was put together with the help of the city in securing a parcel large enough for the store.
On Friday afternoon, customer Melissa Campbell, of Crescent City, said it was the prices that convinced her to make the drive to Brookings.
“I drove up for the prices,” Campbell said. “I actually drive to Medford once a month for the better prices, and that is in a Ford F250 diesel that doesn’t get good gas mileage. That tells you how much better the prices are outside of California.”
“We love Bi-Mart,” she added. “We go to the one in Grants Pass every month. Now it will be nice that we don’t have to drive so far.”
The store had approximately 4,000 members living in Curry County as of January 2012, and those numbers have swelled, according to store systems manager Kathy Marsh.“We have about 6,000 memberships that have either sold or transfered now,” Marsh said.