BY KEVIN LILLY

Pharos-Tribune business writer



There are signs of change at the Wal-Mart in Logansport, as many customers have already realized.

When the projects are complete, there will be a new store layout and a Subway serving more than just subs.

Store manager Mark Torres said he looks forward to seeing the results.

“We are trying to get that (electronics department) more accessible to the customer because in its old format you felt kind of trapped in,” Torres said. “We opened the area up to make it more accessible.”

There are now three ways to access electronics.

Other changes throughout the store include the shampoo aisle being moved from its current location in the corner of the store.

“No one can find it (shampoo) so we’re looking to see how we can move that,” said Torres, who says he gets many of his ideas from the customers.

“I ask customers on a regular basis what they think about the store layout and about products they would like to see offered.”

On average, he talks to three customers per week while they are shopping.

“I’m taking all the customer comments I can of what will make the store better for them,” Torres said. “That is where all these moves are coming from.”

The Logansport store manager said most of his requests get the go-ahead from upper management. Changes in the electronics department and the decision to trade the snack bar for a Subway came from corporate.

Torres said he does not know how security issues factored into creating additional access to the televisions, DVDs, computer accessories and other electronics. Personally, he does not believe that a few should ruin it for everyone else.

“We are doing the customer a disservice by not trusting them,” Torres said. “Because you have a couple that maybe are questionable, you do not want to make the whole general public that way. That’s just not right. We talk about service to our customers. That is not what we are doing when we do that.”

A question Torres often asks customers for input is, “How can we make your shopping experience better?”

“Some I can do, some I can’t,” Torres said.

There are no maps of the store layout available, which Torres said is a decision he made for the sake of customer service.

“I’d rather have the associate take the customer to the item and service the customer that way than to not be very personal and say, ‘Here is a map, go find it.’”

Not only is the layout changing but an assortment of new products also will be available. Torres said a few of the new items are updated computer accessories, more video gaming accessories, and 8 feet more of Xbox and Playstation accessories.

“We are trying to make it Logansport-based instead of Arkansas-based,” Torres said.

Subway

The construction crew building the Subway inside Wal-Mart has been working long hours seven days a week in order to meet the strict deadline set by Wal-Mart.

Dave Van Baalen, the local Subway franchisee, anticipates opening March 1. Each franchisee is responsible for finding their own construction crews. Van Baalen went with Laycock Construction of Peru. He said he had to have the right crew to “step up to the plate and get the job done, and they did.”

“When you go in and see the store you will be amazed at the transformation in such a short period of time,” Van Baalen said.

Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retailer, made a deal to put approximately 1,200 Subways, the nation’s largest restaurant chain, into their stores. A 10-year contract was signed by the two.

Wal-Mart contacted Van Baalen about the proposition because he is a local franchisee who already owns two restaurants in Logansport. He currently owns a total of six Subway Restaurants. The Wal-Mart addition will be his seventh and the third in Cass County.

The Wal-Mart Subway will employee 10 full- and part-time workers.

In other Subway-related news, Van Baalen will be moving the Subway at the Logansport Mall into the old Kentucky Fried Chicken building next to Applebees.

He will be remodeling the building throughout 2006 and hopes to have it opened by the end of the year. The lease with the Logansport Mall ends at the same time.

Van Baalen said the new Logansport store is going to be the most updated, highest-end Subway anybody has ever seen.

Kevin Lilly can be reached at 722-5000, Ext. 5117, or via e-mail at kevin.lilly@pharostribune.com

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