While plans to open a Walmart Neighborhood Market in Chinatown spurred much controversy and protest recently, the national retail chain has been working unchallenged on opening a grocery store in a Southeast Los Angles County city.
A former furniture store site in Bell Gardens is now fully under construction and is tentatively scheduled to open sometime in October, according to Walmart Sr. Manager of Community Affairs Rachel Wall.
The store, leased earlier this year, will be located in the Los Jardines Shopping Center on Eastern Avenue owned by Primestor. Permits from the city for the renovation were requested through the shopping center landlord, Wall told EGP by email. The corporation is opening a temporary hiring center there to begin the search for about 65 employees.
Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Walmart Abrirá Supermercado en Bell Gardens 
The City of Bell Gardens welcomes the Walmart Neighborhood Market, Bell Gardens City Manager Philip Wagner told EGP.
“In addition to providing a new and convenient place to shop, Walmart will provide new jobs and increase sales tax revenue to our community, both desperately needed in this sluggish economy,” he stated. “Walmart will also help strengthen the core of our downtown business district. As Walmart attracts shoppers to their store, small businesses in the area will also benefit from the increase in traffic and additional retail sales.”
Walmart Neighborhood Markets are smaller than typical Walmart stores — there are about 200 in existence nationwide — the Bell Gardens’ store will be about 31,000 square feet in size and primarily sell grocery and pharmaceutical items, according to a company press release.
“We’re very proud to offer our wide variety of fresh produce and healthy products to our Bell Gardens customers,” said Bell Gardens Store Manager Keith Holloway in a written statement. “This new, small store format is a convenient option for our customers to access our broad assortment of affordable food choices all at our Every Day Low Prices.”
Walmart’s announcement highlighted the company’s initiative to provide healthier options to consumers; the addition of 65 full- and part-time jobs with competitive wages, an average of $12.79 per hour to full-time, hourly employees in California, and benefits to eligible employees; the Walmart Foundation’s charitable contributions to communities they serve and the “green” elements of their new store.
The Bell Gardens Neighborhood Market will be located just off the I-710 Long Beach Freeway and will also serve the neighboring communities of Bell, South Gate and Huntington Park.
The openings of Walmart stores locally have not been without controversy. Last month, thousands marched against the Walmart Neighborhood Market planned for the Chinatown neighborhood of the City of Los Angeles. Critics say Walmart blocks its workers attempts to unionize, pays low wages, provides inadequate health benefits and creates unfair competition that drives mom-and-pop stores out of business.
Others, however, welcome the stores which they say create much-needed jobs and provide food and other items at a lower price than other retailers in financially strapped low-income communities.
Editor’s note: This story was updated on Aug. 3, 2012, to add statements from Bell Gardens official and again on Aug. 6 to note that the store will open in October and not Sept. as previously stated by Walmart. The update also clarifies that new jobs will be a combination of part- and full-time positions, and wages and benefits being offered.