Dec. 10, 2003 — The massive parking lot at the new Home Depot store on Donoe Road was filled to capacity Wednesday evening as thousands of V.I. residents arrived for a sneak peek at the home improvement giant's first store in the Virgin Islands.
The special preview event for area contractors and members of the public included music by the Charlotte Amalie High School Band and remarks by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull. After the doors were opened to the public at 6 p.m., the eager crowd filed into the massive new facility. While some were there simply to evaluate the new store's offerings, others were poised to start shopping right away, orange carts in hand.
About 30 minutes after the doors were opened, a brief dedication ceremony was performed just outside the store. After a series of check presentations by Home Depot to Junior Firefighters, Catholic Charities of the USVI, the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, Addelita Cancryn Junior High School and Charlotte Amalie High School, Turnbull took the stage and offered his hope that "this corporate partnership between Home Depot and the Virgin Islands would be beneficial to everyone."
Later the governor was presented an honorary orange smock and took part in a board-cutting ceremony to signify the store's opening.
Measuring 97,000 square feet, the new facility features the store's latest floor plan and a separate garden center. In addition to its regular line of products, the new store will offer V.I.-specific products, including boating equipment. According to Home Depot public relations manager Don Harrison, the St. Thomas store will employ 134 full- and part-time employees, 99 percent of them local.
For contractors, builders and landscapers at Wednesday's preview, the new Home Depot seemed to be a truly welcome sight. Andy Heath, a St. Thomas contractor, said the new store would have a "phenomenal impact" on how he does business.
Although Heath noted that he would still patronize smaller stores on the island, he was excited about the prospect of "one-stop shopping" and said Home Depot's massive inventory will be a real plus. Like many other area contractors, Heath said he was forced in the past to shop off-island in Miami or Puerto Rico.
Home Depot will stock more than 25,000 items in 12 different departments, store manager Ricky Wardally said. Wednesday evening, visibly tired, Wardally greeted customers at the door and spoke at the presentation.
By 7 p.m. all parking spaces were full and new arrivals were forced to create their own spaces closer to the Market Square East shopping center.
The public grand opening will be at 6 a.m. Thursday. Although Home Depot officials were unable to estimate how many people would arrive on Thursday, traffic around Donoe Road will definitely be a concern. According to Wardally, store officials will be working with the V.I. Police Department to ensure that traffic problems are kept to a minimum.
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