Going Big: Memories From the First Supercenter

Walmart 60th

Associates remember the early days of Walmart’s first Supercenter.

When Store 172 in Washington, Missouri, opened in 1988, there was even more excitement than usual. This wasn’t just any new store—this was Walmart’s first Supercenter!


The Supercenter reflected the next generation of Hypermarts, a format that Walmart had experimented with previously. The large store—the first solely owned and operated by Walmart—offered both groceries and general merchandise as well as specialty services like an eyeglass center and an auto care shop. The future had arrived!

Associates Remember

Brenda Warner joined Walmart in 1979. She was an apparel team lead working for Store 172 when it was still a Division 1 store. She recalls the Supercenter opened with great community fanfare and many giveaways.


Kelly Meyer, another apparel team lead, joined Store 172 in 1988, when the Supercenter opened. She remembers weighing pallet after pallet of turkeys, which were being sold for nine cents a pound.


“I believe it created a lot of excitement,” Kelly says. “It was one-stop shopping that this town had never had. You could buy an outfit, and then go get your groceries.”


Daniel Anderson, Store 172’s current store manager, says the store had around 700 associates when it became a Supercenter. It’s now operating with about 350 associates. Updated and streamlined processes—from how we inventory items and place orders to how customers shop—mean bigger stores can now operate more efficiently.

Daniel adds that they used to slice their own deli meat and bake bread and donuts fresh on site. Now items are pre-sliced or premixed offsite. In the beginning, the store even offered live lobsters, and featured a 1950s-themed burger joint called Radio Grill. In the early days, some associates even zipped around the store on roller skates!


“I did not, because I was in the meat department,” Kelly says, laughing, but a few front-end associates and customer service managers did.


A Birdseye View

As the first Supercenter, Store 172 had its share of visits from Mr. Sam, including at the grand opening. A later visit became part of store legend, though details are patchy.


As the story goes, Mr. Sam paid a visit to Store 172, flying in on his own plane as he often did.


“Sam was famous for flying into these small towns,” Daniel explains. “I guess they were preparing for a visit. And a couple of the managers made the decision to take a bunch of freight and put it on the roof.”


The managers may have assumed the freight was safely out of sight and didn’t realize Mr. Sam might fly right over the store.


“I'm guessing he had some conversations with some management that day,” says Daniel.


The store has about a dozen associates with 30 or more years with Walmart. “We have a really good base of long-term associates,” Daniel says.


Over the years, many associates have moved up through the company into other positions, some transferring to the home office in Bentonville, Arkansas. As the first Supercenter, Store 172 became a training ground for managers who would go on to lead at the growing number of Supercenters around the country.


Today, 33 years after the opening of Store 172, Walmart U.S. has 3,571 Supercenters. Looking back at the early days of the first one, we can see how far we’ve come.


As we celebrate Walmart’s 60th anniversary, we’re featuring stores and stories from around the Walmart World.