Traditional gifts for 10th anniversary celebrations are normally made of tin or aluminum. Given that the Dillons grocery store in north Newton has plenty of the latter, it instead made its celebration about the community, making some major renovations and upgrades throughout the year.
Officially, the store's 10th anniversary happened in January of 2016, but the multimillion dollar renovations got under way in April and were nearly complete in July (a two-and-a-half month process). Store manager Ryan Barker noted they were still working up until last Wednesday's grand re-opening (shifting the layout of the produce section) and some finishing touches remain, but he felt this was a good way to celebrate the occasion as the store at 1216 N. Main St. had only gone through some minor cosmetic changes previously.
During and leading up to the big celebration, community was a focal point of the ongoing change, as evidenced by all who spoke at the ceremony last Wednesday.
"Really, when it comes to our renovations, our customers are top of mind," said Dillons Community and Public Relations Manager Sheila Lowrie. "We listen to their feedback that they share with us."
Knowing that changes like the ones the Dillons in north Newton has gone through this year can be difficult, Barker and his staff have been there to help the local customers adjust. It may take some time getting used to the new store layout, but as he noted it was all done in mind with better serving the customers, from providing a larger selection of fresh and healthy items (now double what was previously stocked) to allowing for some bulk purchasing, something store staff is still adjusting to as well.
"We're still learning how to order because we think we did a big order and it's not enough, so we're still having to do some special orders just to keep up with how well it's doing," Barker said.
Freshness and going green are focuses in more ways than one, too, as Barker noted new cases have been installed almost everywhere in the store with a focus on keeping products fresher as well as saving energy costs.
Additionally, spreading out those fresh and organic foods around the store streamlines the design a little more and adds to the convenience for customers.
"As they're going about shopping, they really feel like the flow of the store's better," Barker said. "If they're looking for organic cereal, they can go to the cereal aisle and get both organic and traditional needs. I think that's a big thing that's made it easier."
New features throughout the store include additional selections of garden-fresh produce (including organic varieties and salad bar), enhanced offerings of fresh meat and seafood, expanded offerings of natural and organic foods, a new pharmacy with private counsel rooms, updated sections of sports apparel and fan gear (including local and state teams), a soothing atmosphere and new wooden showcases/overhead directional signs in the health and beauty section, new check-lanes, enhanced frozen food and grocery offerings and a fresh decor package with warm colors, upgraded department markers and energy-efficient ambient lighting.
Changes were made in line with corporate standards to maintain consistency with other Dillons stores around the state, something Barker had experience with working in Wichita previously. While he has only been in Newton a short time, he has already been struck by the strong sense of community that was on display at Wednesday's grand re-opening.
With the support received from the community, Dillons turned around and made $500 donations to both Newton High School Athletics and the Harvey County Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Safehouse, while also giving $22,600 to the Harvey County United Way. According to Barker, $21,000 of that donation was contributed by store associates.
"It's all about teamwork," said United Way Executive Director Tina Payne.
Along with the support, community pride was on display throughout the ceremony. Newton Chamber of Commerce Board President Michael Lunsford even led a special cheer. In turn, regional manager Mike Maddy noted Dillons wanted to show its commitment to Newton and take it to the "next level" with the renovations.
Though customers may still have some adjusting to do, it is a small price to pay for all that is being offered, especially with the strong support system that has been established.
"I've never received anything but just the best support from everyone who shops here," Barker said. "They just welcomed me to the team and welcomed me as a part of Newton. Really, the biggest thing is I just hope they enjoy everything and just know if they have ever have anything they need any associate is available to help them, and we'd be glad to."