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Scores attend Home Depot opening

By: Gloria Young, Journal Staff Writer
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Auburn gave Home Depot a warm welcome Wednesday evening, with crowds pouring into the store for a first look. Within minutes of the 5 p.m. soft opening, the parking lot was jammed and cars were quickly filling streetside spaces for blocks around the site. Inside, members of the Placer High band provided music as visitors strolled through the aisles, in some places elbow-to-elbow — some just there to look around, but many others with shopping carts. Cool resident Cindy Cassidy, who works for Placer County, decided to stop in to buy some lightbulbs. “I was surprised at all the people,” she said as she entered the doors. “This is a big event for Auburn.” Even at mid-day, would-be customers were pulling into the parking lot and peeking through the sliding glass doors as employees inflated balloons and made last-minute preparations for the grand opening. “I’ve been answering the phone all morning (from customers wanting to know if the store is open),” operations manager Adam Lauder said. “I’ve probably told 15 to 20 people.” For the past five weeks, Lauder and the staff of 165 have worked night and day to get shelves stocked and displays ready. And said he’s pleased that opening day has finally arrived. Wednesday evening’s preview of the 103,000-square-foot store with an additional 25,000-square-foot garden center included prize giveaways, light refreshments and vendor demonstrations. As part of the festivities, company officials also presented a $2,000 check to the Auburn Boys & Girls Club. The facility, which occupies a corner of the Placer County-owned DeWitt Center, officially opens for business at 6 a.m. today. Lauder, who grew up in Foresthill and graduated from Placer High, is proud of being a part of the project. Customers will find the latest styles and products that Home Depot has to offer, he said, adding that the store carries all of the chain’s current displays. Among those having a look at some of those displays Wednesday evening were David and Debbie Aday of Auburn. “We built a house 10 years ago so (I feel like) I own stock in Home Depot,” David Aday said. In the paint section, Lake of the Pines residents Donna Parkinson and Jannell Williams were looking at shades and tints. “I’ve been waiting and waiting for this to get here so we don’t have to go down to Roseville,” Williams said. Auburn residents Jeff Widick and Hollie Prust, who were relaxing in a porch swing, said they, too, were surprised at the size of the crowd. “We just bought a house, so we came in to shop and look around,” Prust said. “It’s hard for your hometown to expand this way. But it’s actually really exciting to see the store come in. … We spend less to get here, so we can spend more here.” But not everyone is pleased to have a Home Depot in Auburn. Dale Smith, founder of the now-disbanded Friends of Placer County Communities, fought for 10 years to keep the chain out. “The project doesn’t belong where they put it,” Smith said Wednesday. “It doesn’t belong on citizen-owned property.” For Smith, it is also a matter of protecting small business. “I am a small business owner and I patronize small businesses in the community,” he said. “I won’t drive on the Home Depot property and I will never buy anything from them. I will continue to buy what I need from small businesses because I know that small businesses are the backbone of America.” Auburn Home Depot is one of 12 stores the chain is opening this year, but the only new one opening in California — one other store is being relocated in Fullerton, communications spokeswoman Kathryn Gallagher said. Free how-to clinics and product demonstrations will include workshops for children ages 5-12, with the first one scheduled for Saturday. Home Depot is at 11755 Willow Creek Drive, off Highway 49, in North Auburn. The Journal’s Gloria Young can be reached at gloriay@goldcountrymedia.com or comment at Auburnjournal.com.