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Wal-Mart to expand Hilltop Plaza site

EAST FRANKLIN — What began as a rumor has become a reality — Wal-Mart is expanding in the Hilltop Plaza.

East Franklin's Supervisor Douglas Flanders, who is finishing up his term this month, said Wal-Mart will begin adding on to the existing building to become the county's first Supercenter.

"It's a fact, the process is beginning," said Flanders.

At one time, he said, officials from Wal-Mart Stores Inc., had considered relocating the East Franklin store but ultimately decided the store should stay at its present location for development into a Supercenter.

Flanders said about a year ago he met with a Wal-Mart designer to discuss a management plan.

"I'm pleased they've finally started," said Flanders. "It's to be determined how it will affect competitors," he said.

Kittanning Foodland consultant, Butch Kane, said: "Every time you open up another business, it's going to cut into the pie, regardless of what kind of business it is."

However, Kane said, the development of the Supercenter may not be quite as big a blow to business as it has been in other areas because Wal-Mart is gradually increasing and expanding an already existing store.

George Hathaway, who has been owner of the Kittanning Foodland since April, said he will continue to focus his efforts on running his store and maintaining his current level of customers.

According to the Wal-Mart corporate website, Supercenters were first developed in 1988. Since then, the number of Supercenters have multiplied to 3,014 stores nationwide. On average, a Supercenter covers 185,000 square feet and employs about 350 associates. The centers combine general merchandise with groceries including baked items, meat and dairy products, fresh produce deli foods, beverages and frozen foods. Some of these items have gradually been added to Kittanning's existing Wal-Mart store.

Questions from the Leader Times regarding the expansion project were directed to Wal-Mart's corporate media relations by means of an electronic form. The Leader Times did not receive a response in time for this story.

A representative at the Kittanning Wal-Mart said information concerning a groundbreaking event will be announced at a future date.

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