Hundreds of people stood in line in the rising morning heat Wednesday to be the first shoppers at Hesperia's newest Stater Bros., which took over the former Albertsons site and replaced a smaller Stater Bros. less than half a mile away.
The new "Blue Ribbon" supermarket at 16904 Main St. represents a number of firsts for Hesperia, as well as for the largest supermarket chain in Southern California.
It is the largest Stater Bros. in the Inland Empire, at nearly twice the size of the store it replaced. It is also the first Stater Bros. with a Manuela's, a full service tortilleria that serves fresh tortillas and tortilla chips. CEO Jack Brown said the tortilleria is unique to Hesperia and will be the test market for adding future tortillerias in other stores.
"It's good to come home," Brown, who was raised in neighboring Victorville, said during Wednesday's grand opening. "You can never get the sand out of your hair in the desert."
The morning's ceremonies began with the Sultana High School band performing the National Anthem to a growing crowd, followed by a series of speeches given by both corporate and local Stater Bros. employees and local officials.
An emphasis was placed on local initiative and job creation, with Stater Bros.' Chief Operating Officer Jim Lee and Hesperia Mayor Russ Blewett noting communities can no longer wait on county, state or the federal government to create jobs.
Along with transferring employees from the former site to the new one, Susan Atkinson, vice president of corporate affairs, said Stater Bros. hired 50 new workers to staff the larger store. Brown added that 125 local construction workers had been hired to renovate the former Albertsons building.
The company planed an emphasis on a more environmentally-conscious and sustainable store. The new store uses LED lighting and has implemented a new energy management system to control refrigeration, heating and cooling, an energy conservation system called Demand Response and lighting, all of which are expected to reduce energy usage by 60 percent, according to a news release from Atkinson.
The company also presented donations totaling $8,000 to the Sultana High School band, the Hesperia Sheriff's station for the Police Activities League, the Hesperia Library and the Feed My Sheep community food pantry.
Sales tax revenue from the new store is expected to continue bolstering the city's general fund. Hesperia spokeswoman Kelly Malloy said Stater Bros. is one of the city's top 25 sales tax producers.
Stater Bros. is the largest private employer in San Bernardino and Riverside counties, with more than 18,000 workers in 167 stores.