Courier Staff Writer
Ask a Kohl’s associate how big their brand new Ottumwa store is, and they can honestly say, “Big enough to hide a marching band.”
During the grand opening Wednesday morning, Dale Christiansen, the store manager, suddenly introduced the Ottumwa High School musicians, who marched out of the side of the building, all 80 members playing the whole way around the parking lot.
Speakers at the ribbon cutting said they really did have something to celebrate.
For example, Christiansen said that in addition to a great place to shop, the store brought with it 125 new jobs. Officials who spoke mentioned increased local tax revenue, as well as keeping more Ottumwans shopping at home. Plus, the store, when added to the others in Ottumwa, can be a draw to out-of-town shoppers who want to spend their money here.
After the doors opened, Beverly Dickinson of Oskaloosa was checking out the kitchen department. She called the Kohl’s store “one more reason to come to Ottumwa” to shop.
On his “official” web page, Jeremy Weller, an Ottumwa City Council member, wrote that when the store quietly opened its doors the Sunday before the grand opening, he counted 87 cars with out-of-county plates in the parking lot.
Even with all the excitement of the band, the cheerleaders, elected officials and the Ottumwa Area Chamber of Commerce’s red jacketed ambassadors, the store was less crowded with shoppers at 7 a.m. Wednesday.
“When I told my husband, he said, ‘You’re going at what time?’” said Ellen Birch of Oskaloosa, who was waiting with Dickinson for the doors to open.
But Birch needed to pick up her grandchildren Wednesday afternoon, then head to her job. She said she wasn’t about to miss Kohl’s grand opening.
“We’ve been waiting for this,” she said, “ever since we heard about it. I called her last night!”
It may have been early for some people, but the two shoppers were smiling and kept each other laughing.
Birch had been to the Kohl’s in Terra Haute, Ind., and really enjoyed her experience. There’s a Kohl’s in Des Moines, said her friend, but they don’t get up there much.
Both agreed that while the Ottumwa store was loaded with merchandise, it was set up in a way that wasn’t overwhelming to the senses. At least so far, they added.
“We haven’t been on that side yet,” said Dickinson, pointing to the other half of the store.
The actual size of the store is just more than 55,000 square feet.
“I would especially like to thank the Ottumwa City Council, which was instrumental in bringing Kohl’s to Ottumwa,” Christiansen said, adding a thank you to former Mayor Dale Uehling.
The retailer is here, said Councilman Bob Meyers, because Kohl’s and community leaders worked together. But he said City Administrator Joe Helfenberger had insisted from the beginning he believed in the plan.
“He told us, ‘We can do this. We can bring Kohl’s to Ottumwa,’” Meyers said.
“It really took a community to bring this project to fruition,” Helfenberger said. “Our residents deserve the best life has to offer.”