WARRENSBURG - Hundreds of people celebrated the Grand Opening of Stewart's new convenience store Saturday by either attending the ribbon cutting ceremony, by delving into an ice-cream contest, or by taking advantage of specially lowered prices during the day.
Located at the midtown intersection of Stewart Farrar Avenue and Main St., the new store offers easier access, 12 gas pumps, and a more spacious parking lot than the prior store downtown, which is now closed. The former store had a mere four pumps, and cars attempting to park often interfered with those getting gassed up in the cramped lot.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday attracted town officials, top Stewart's executives including Bill and Susan Dake, and leaders of several community groups that received sizeable donations from Stewart's Shops.
Susan Dake, president of the Stewart's Foundation, presented checks of $1,000 to the Warrensburg Volunteer Fire Co., the Warrensburg Scholarship Association and Richards Library. The latter has been seeking money to resume its stalled project to finish its new wing. Officials of all the groups expressed appreciation for the donations.
The new Stewart's opened Dec. 15, and immediately hosted a steady stream of customers, many of whom said they appreciated the new convenient access, which presented a problem at the former store several blocks south of Main St.
Stewart's spokesman Tom Mailey said Saturday the store's revenue reflected how well the store had been received by customers.
"We are very pleased with the sales," he said. "It's so much easier for people to park and shop now - it's a win-win situation for everybody."
Not everyone is thrilled, however. Several dozen people had objected to the store being situated in a historic district, and across Stewart Farrar from the historic Presbyterian Church. Dozens of residents had argued that resulting traffic disruptions would threaten pedestrian traffic, particularly children walking to the elementary school nearby.
Members of the local Historical Society waged a lawsuit against both Stewart's and the town of Warrensburg for the site selection and approval process, with they claimed was short-circuited.
The Article 78 suit was filed in state Supreme Court. Justice David Krogmann denied the citizens' injunction request, who also rejected Stewart's motion to dismiss the lawsuit. In the decision, Krogmann warned that any excavation or construction at the project site would be at Stewart's peril if the company proceeded with the lawsuit's outcome pending.
Saturday, Mailey declined to discuss in detail the pending lawsuit, which is still awaiting Krogmann's decision.
"We believe the town did their job in the review process, and we felt secure enough to go forward," he said.