Walmart market draws hundreds of job seekers

DOWNEY - Irene Trujillo has been unemployed since January. "It's stressful," Trujillo said with a wry laugh. "I've been applying everywhere with very little response."

Trujillo, 38, recently moved from Yuma, Arizona to the city of Rosemead, but so far the job search isn't any easier, she said.

"It was hard to get a job there - everybody was fighting for a job," said Trujillo. "A secure job would mean a lot...I have a lot of hopes."

Trujillo is just one of the hundreds of unemployed and underemployed people applying for a part-time position at the new Downey Walmart Neighborhood Market, which is hiring just 65 associates to manage the highly-anticipated, 33,000-sq.-ft. supermarket.

"I read an article in La Opinion about a Walmart sprouting up in Bell Gardens," said Victor Castro, 38.

Motivated by the opportunity, Castro, who lives in Compton, left his temp agency and applied for a Walmart position.

"When I applied they asked me to come here for the Downey store. They told me they have part-time only," he said. "But hopefully it can lead to full-time."

Store manager Jaime Onibasa sees men and women like Castro everyday inside the Walmart hiring center located at the Downey YMCA.

"We're getting about 50 walk-ins a day," said Onibasa who's overseen more than 200 interviews since the hiring center opened last week.

"We see people of all ages and ethnicities. This morning we had people standing around the room - they had taken all the chairs," she said. "I don't do first interviews, but I had to jump in and help."

The new Walmart Neighborhood Market, expected to open in early November, will replace the former Alin's Party Depot, at 12270 Paramount Blvd., which shut down nearly two years ago.

As a part of an effort to target suburban communities by opening smaller, more efficient Walmart locations, the Downey market will offer traditional grocery store staples such as fresh produce, meats and dairy products, frozen foods, deli foods, bakery items, pet supplies, household supplies, and a pharmacy.

Rachel Wall, senior manager of community affairs for Walmart, said the company chose Downey because local residents were already shopping the Walmart brand.

"It's a convenient, wide-variety grocery store with seasonal products," said Wall. "From fresh produce and fresh meat to pens and notepads, it's your traditional grocery store with the same low prices." Onibasa, a 15-year Walmart employee, said she's already hired her four assistant managers for the store, all transfers from other Walmart locations in Torrance, Long Beach and Santa Ana.

Downey resident Sara Arroyo is one of those managers, looking forward to a shorter commute to work everyday.

"I'm very excited, this is the best place to learn," said Arroyo who used to work for the Walmart inside the Long Beach Towne Center. "We're going to bring a lot of good things to the city."

Facing cut hours at her job with the city of Long Beach, Kiesha Allen is certainly expecting something good after interviewing for one of the associate positions.

"It's hard to find or even get interviews," said Allen, 39. " With the amount of money I'm making, it's hard taking care of my son. I only work part-time so I have to work a second job...I have to take care of me and my son."

Applicants can still apply online at The hiring center, located at 11531 Downey Ave., will remain open through October.

********** Published: September 6, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 21