Dollar General quietly opened for business in Ceres Friday morning for a soft opening designed to work out any kinks in the operation before a blow-out grand opening expected for May 18.
Alice Ochoa of Ceres learned about the opening and kept checking to see if doors opened since around 7 a.m. A last-minute computer issue put the opening at before 9 a.m. She was among a small group of customers who walked in the door and were impressed with the sparkling new store fully stocked with groceries and produce.
"Of course I'm going to be a regular here," said Ochoa, a 12-year Ceres resident who has missed Richland Market which occupied the building until it closed in October. She said she has been shopping at the Tully Road store in Modesto and is now happy "that I get to stay close to home now."
The 15,649-square-foot Dollar General in the Richland Shopping Center is classified as a Dollar General Market store because it carries fresh produce, groceries, fresh meats, frozen foods and deli lunch meats.
The new store is employing under 30 employees.
"It's a beautiful store and we're proud to be a part of the community," said District Manager Jeff Van Horn.
He said the opening of Dollar General should soften the blow of Ceres losing Richland Market which had been operating in Ceres for 61 years.
"I actually lived in Ceres 10, 12 years ago and I remember shopping here."
The Dollar General chain, based in Goodlettsville, Tenn., is well known in most of the country and just now becoming known in California where an aggressive market expansion is taking place.
"Their presence is certainly being known now," said Van Horn. "We've got several stores in Southern California, there's five or six now in Bakersfield and of course there's stores in my district - I've got Chowchilla, Hilmar, Modesto, and of course Ceres now. We've got Ripon, four stores in Stockton and I go all the way up to Red Bluff. The company's plan is to continue growing and to continue building. The expansion piece over the next couple of years is going to be huge. I think there'll be a time where everyone knows what a Dollar General is. They'll know we're not a dollar store ... we're a ‘for your everyday needs' store."
Van Horn said Dollar General store is comparable to a Walmart in pricing and selection but "just a much smaller scale."
The store carries all the major brands of household goods and a small selection of health and beauty, party goods, electronics and apparel.
The store's manager is Joseph Changnon.
Dollar General is open 7 a.m. to midnight seven days a week.
Dollar General is planning to open a traditional store at the corner of Whitmore Avenue and Malik Drive.