An interactive showroom for customers to try laptops and tablets, energy-efficient lighting and new flooring are a few of the upgrades recently completed at Walmart in Taos.
The store's management, employees and a few special guests celebrated Friday (July 6) with a ribbon-cutting and refreshments for customers all day.
The remodel took about three months and a lot of long nights to avoid interfering with customers during the day, according to store manager Carl Lucero.
Other upgrades include an expanded baby section, larger frozen food and dairy departments and new coolers for a larger liquor section.
Customers also will find a new "pickup lounge" at the front of the store, which, to be clear, is for customers to swing by and get their pre-ordered items, not find a date.
"We've received a lot of positive feedback from customers, and they are enjoying all the new updates throughout the store," said Lucero, in a prepared statement.
The Taos store is 32 years old. It is one of seven stores the corporation is redesigning, in part to keep up with new technology and new expectations from customers. "You have the app now where you can order and have merchandise ready for you to pick up when you get to the store," Lucero said.
Cynthia Rasco, an assistant store manager, has worked for the Taos Walmart for nearly 25 years. Rasco said it was great to have the remodel finished. "It was definitely very challenging, but very exciting to see the outcome," she said. "You don't always realize how badly you need a redesign until it is done."
Mayor Dan Barrone was at the ribbon-cutting to thank Walmart for paying their employees a higher minimum wage and for the amount of gross receipts taxes generated by customers at the store, which helps the town's revenues.
About 200 employees work at the Taos Walmart, where starting pay is now $11.50 an hour. Lucero said the pay goes up from there and can top well over $20 an hour depending on the length of time a person has worked for the company and their skill level. He said Walmart also provides health insurance, profit sharing, a retirement fund and helps pay for college courses and training for employees.
Many businesses in Taos now pay above the statewide minimum wage of $7.50 an hour, in part to be able to retain workers. Santa Fe's mandated minimum wage went up in March to $11.40 an hour. A minimum wage is less than a living wage, which is the calculated amount needed to cover basic necessities such as food, housing and transportation.