AFTER a community-splitting fight lasting several years, the doors of the controversial Mullumbimby Woolworths supermarket were thrown open for the first time yesterday morning.
Deliberately avoiding a ‘Hollywood –style’ event, the opening was low-key with long-time Woolies supporter, Richard Kidby, 92, given the honour of being the first customer through the door.
Only a handful of people were there when the store opened at 8am and there were no protests.
Members of the major Woolies opponent, Mullumbimby Community Action Network, were unusually coy in the lead-up to the opening.
Co-ordinator, Deborah Lilley didn’t want to say whether any protest was being planned or even make a comment.
Asked if there would be a move to organise a boycott of the supermarket, she said people would have to make up their own minds whether they shopped there or not.
However, it’s understood MCAN is looking at developing buy-local projects.
Woolies community relations manager, Simon Berger, said the supermarket giant was well aware of the history, but didn’t want to dwell too much on the past other than to say Woolworths “appreciate the people who have stuck with us”.
Mr Berger said the company’s major aim was to do “a good job for the town”.
The store has more than 70 full-time and part-time staff on its payroll, including 28 staff from the now-closed Mallams supermarket.
Many of the new workers come from surrounding towns.
The store’s first manager is Wayne McInerney who worked at the Byron Bay store for 15 years including four years as manager.
In recent years, Mr McInerney managed Woolworths stores at Ballina and Lismore.
He said the two weeks leading up to the opening had been a bit of a challenge getting used to new systems, including the on-site sewage treatment plant which would see effluent used to irrigate gardens and be recycled for use in the store’s toilets.
At 2500sq m, the new supermarket is bigger than the Byron Bay store and has an extensive parking area.
Mr McInerney said measures had been taken to reduce noise from air conditioning units after concerns were expressed by residents.
He said most residents he had spoken to were “glad” the store had been built.
“The general comment from people in Mullumbimby is they can’t wait for it to open,” he said.
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