COLUMBIA — With coupons in hand, residents gathered Friday in the parking lot of the new Big Lots store for its opening.
City officials participated in the store's opening ceremony before welcoming shoppers to enter.
The Chamber of Commerce cut the ceremonial ribbon. The members said they look forward to see the potential of the new store.
"I think anytime you have a company come in and invest in the community is a good thing," member B.J. Hunter said.
Rock Bridge High School was given a check at the event for $2,500. Principal Mark Maus was on hand to receive the check and spoke about the likelihood of Big Lots hiring many Rock Bridge students.
In addition to Rock Bridge students, Columbia College officials at the event said they plan to start an internship program with Big Lots.
"The corporation Big Lots program really wanted to ramp up how to grow their own," said Myles Hinkel, Columbia College's Director of Development for Major and Planned Gifts .
Hinkel spoke about the college's plans with Big Lots to develop an internship program with potential for management positions.
With holiday shopping beginning, many residents stood outside in the cold morning air during the ceremony to be one of the first people into the building after the ribbon cutting.
"They actually have really good deals in there so we started Christmas shopping early," resident Sheena Williams said. "When I went yesterday morning, there was some nice stuff in there when I came last night there was a whole bunch of new stuff."
Not everyone there was so excited about the ceremony progressions for the new store.
"I think its overrated is what I think — just another business coming into Columbia," Ron Geren said. "You never know what's gonna happen."
Excited or not, inside shoppers found coffee mugs, rugs, kitchen products and hair appliances perfect for holiday gifts.
The store manager described his hope for the impact the store will have on Rock Bridge.
"I think our opportunity is really to bring a whole new shopping experience to Columbia," Jarin Wood said.
Big Lots is located at 505 E. Nifong Blvd. in the Rock Bridge Shopping Center.