Walmart Market Store Manager Is Bradenton Native
Sarasota Walmart Neighborhood Market Store Manager Jeff Douglas' journey to the top started as a cart pusher at the Cortez Walmart in Bradenton.
Sarasota Walmart Neighborhood Market Store Manager Jeff Douglas never forgets where he came from.
"At 17, you just want some money in your pocket," Douglas said.
But who knew that he would one day rise through the ranks at Walmart and open his own store?
"At Walmart, you can do anything," Douglas said Tuesday, smiling inside the new Neighborhood Market.
Douglas will open the doors at 8 a.m. today following a ribbon cutting ceremony at 7:30 a.m. The store on the corner of Myrtle Street and North Tamiami Trail.
Douglas had aspirations to make it to the National Football League, and while he pursued that dream at a junior college in Iowa, he stayed on with Walmart through using the company's transfer program for college students, working at a Walmart discount store.
He had then transferred to West Liberty State College near Wheeling, West Virginia, for Division II football, but didn't want to test his classic car in the Appalachians and in the snow. Besides, the physical journey took a toll on his car, too.
"I drove a '77 Chevy from Iowa to Florida, and I didn't want to take it to West Virginia," he said, laughing.
So he took a leave of absence from Walmart to preserve his employment while studying, but as the pigskin pursuit faded, he always had Walmart.
When he returned to Florida, managers here instilled in him that he had a future with the company.
So from cart pusher, to cashier, unloading, furniture department manager, associate manager and many jobs in between, Douglas has done it all.
"I won't ask any of my associates something that I haven't done or won't do," he said.
While in Florida, Douglas entered the associate manager program and has since served as shift manager at stores in Osprey, Kissimmee and St. Cloud.
A point of pride for Douglas is the Walmart Supercenter at State Road 64 and Interstate 75 in Bradenton where he served as an assistant manager.
"I get to drive by that Walmart everyday and tell my associates that I helped open that store," Douglas said.
Douglas said the Neighborhood Market presents unique challenges that he embraces.
First, there's the size. At 32,444 square feet, the Neighborhood Market is about a third of the size of a Walmart discount store, so some shelves in the store has risers to add more products on the floor. Plus those products have to cater to two very different populations on the North Trail having incomes on both ends of the spectrum, he added.
Then there's getting a staff familiar with how Walmart works.
Out of the 92 employees, or associates as Walmart calls them, the store was able to accept 15 associates who transferred from other stores at various positions.
"It's not easy opening a Walmart with only 15 people who worked for Walmart before," he said, but Douglas always looks at the bright side.
The employees he trains at the Neighborhood Market could be both promoted from within at the store one day, or be promoted or transferred to the proposed Walmart Supercenter at the Ringling Shopping Center, he said.
"We're looking for the next Sam Walton," Douglas said. "I might not be it, but I'm looking for the next Sam Walton."
At the same time, because it's so small, he wants customers to feel like family. After all, it was his mom who worked at a Bradenton Walmart who helped get him his job, he said.
"I remember growing up going to the grocery store with my parents and knowing the store manager," he said, adding how personable the and caring the managers were.
So, he wants to return the favor and insists that if you need help with something at the store, just ask, but he might ask you before you get a chance.
As part of that community feel, Douglas has 12 days of giveaways and promotions planned.
The pharmacy will run a promotion from Sept. 20 to 23 where if you get your flu shot there, you get a free rotisserie chicken. The shots cost $20.
During the grand opening phase, the store will have a free raffle giving away a grill, kids bikes, tickets to Busch Gardens and the Tampa Bay Rays, on another day the store will grill steaks and the Tampa Bay Storm cheerleaders are expected to be on hand. Plus face painting, T-shirts, and the list goes on and on.
"I want everyone to feel comfortable," Douglas said. "It's the community's store as well."