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O.C.'s First Wal-Mart Draws the Curious and the Faithful : Retailing: Many are glad their favorite discounter now is nearby. Others stop by just to check it out.


ANAHEIM — Seeing was believing Monday for Anaheim resident Darlene Acosta, who has been hearing about Wal-Mart for years.

Acosta, along with her daughters Stephanie and Tiffany and her mother, Doris Davis, joined hundreds of other shoppers at the discount department store in Anaheim, the first Orange County location.

Three hours later, Acosta branded the shopping expedition a success. The family spent $70 on milk, diapers, paper towels and other household necessities and had a quick lunch at the store's mini-McDonald's restaurant.

"The prices seemed low, compared to Target and Kmart," Acosta said. "I think we'll come back."

The Anaheim Wal-Mart opened Saturday. On Monday, the store's parking lot in the newly rebuilt Anaheim Plaza was jammed. Wal-Mart will have a grand opening ceremony at 9 a.m. today.

Wal-Mart plans to open two more Orange County locations later this year, one in Foothill Ranch Towne Center and the other in The Marketplace at Laguna Hills. The chain, based in Bentonville, Ark., is the nation's largest retailer, with 2,000 stores and $100 billion in annual revenue.

Wal-Mart's arrival in Orange County pits the retailer against Troy, Mich.-based Kmart, which is opening three Super Kmart stores in the vicinity of the three Wal-Mart locations. Super Kmarts offer everything found in a typical Kmart--as well as a full grocery store.

Shoppers entering the 400,000-square-foot Anaheim store on Monday were split into two groups: those who have shopped at Wal-Mart stores elsewhere and those who have only heard about the store, which promises to deliver strong value, a wide selection and courteous service.

Virginia Kittinger of Garden Grove has shopped Wal-Marts in Corona, Cerritos and Riverside. "This is just another Wal-Mart to me," Kittinger said. "I won't have to drive as far anymore."

Harold and Phyllis Ross of Anaheim had never been in a Wal-Mart store. "We're just here to look around," Harold Ross said Monday. "I don't know what to expect. We've heard a lot about them."

Cherie McGaughey of Anaheim has been shopping at Target for most household necessities. But after her first Wal-Mart visit, McGaughey said that she'll be back. "The prices were low compared to Target," she said, "so I guess I'll be shopping here from now on."

Tijuana resident Jesse Mejia had shopped at a Wal-Mart in Vista in northern San Diego County. She stopped at the newest Wal-Mart on Monday while visiting a sister in Anaheim. Mejia bought a Minnie Mouse doll for her daughter, Denise Alvarado Mejia, and some household items for herself.

"I like the store," Mejia said. "The prices are low."

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