The pilgrimage is nearly over. In a little more than two months, the staff and management of the north Medford Walmart will migrate home to a revamped and expanded superstore next to Costco.
For some it's been a journey of discovery, for others a bit of trek through retail purgatory.
See hiringcenter.walmartstores.com/OnlineHiringCenter/initialPage.jsp or visit an in-store kiosk at any Walmart.
Store Manager John McBride spent time at the south Medford store and made the rounds of seven other regional stores with Market Manager JoEllen Stodola. When the Klamath Falls store manager departed this spring, McBride stepped into the gap while a new manager was hired.
"It was fun for a couple months," McBride said of the interlude. "But I quickly learned I don't like not having a store, where I can have people to interact with and lead."
The north Medford Walmart will reopen as a superstore in mid-September. The 152,000-square-foot store at 3615 Crater Lake Highway picked up more than 25,000 square feet as its footprint shifted 96 feet south to make room for the extension of Owen Drive.
The north Medford Walmart is technically a new store, with a different company number — 5839 has supplanted the old 2029 identity. On the other hand, when the south Medford superstore opened last summer, it took on the shuttered Talent store's 2069 designation.
"In the months of traveling with my market manager, I got more a of macro view of operations, seeing how every store runs a little differently," McBride said. "I can take the best practices away when it comes to merchandising and avoid some of the things I don't want to do when it comes to managing people."
He'll come back to a store with many new managers and supervisors, given new opportunities because of the not one, but two superstore transitions in Medford.
In all, the new superstore will have a payroll of 380 — 170 of whom are already hired, including 100 who have been at the south Medford location. A few others have been at the Eagle Point Walmart.
Personnel Manager Lori Gowland, the first hire when Walmart came to Medford in 1993, said the hundreds of vacancies created by the superstore have attracted a surge in out-of-state inquiries, including from people interested in transferring from distant Walmarts in Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Missouri, Nevada and Wyoming.
"We're seeing a number of people who have been unemployed applying, as well as an influx of people relocating from different places."
The store will be staffed by 12 salaried managers and 40 hourly supervisors. Walmart typically hires 70 percent of its managers externally, but with existing department heads available, only 50 percent will come from the outside this time.
Managers and supervisors at the old north store remained at the same pay, hours and position even though the positions were sometimes duplicated when former Talent and north Medford staffs were combined.
"I was pretty much doing the same job," Gowland said. "I was really grateful the company doubled up. I had heard Walmart had done that kind of thing before, but it had never impacted me. They just said we will allow you to keep your positions while we build the new stores unless you want to try something else."
She said some employees nearing retirement used the temporary closure to make a clean break.
Jayne Shafer, a co-manager along with Arizona transplant Roman Cardenas, previously managed the electronics department and has been an assistant manager for two years. Shafer spent the past year learning about produce and groceries, while honing her product-ordering skills.
"We have to control what we stock for the customers, to make sure they have what they want when they need it," she said. "It takes a human element to know what's going on in the community and season, so you can plan and order the right products. You want to make sure you have plenty of avocados and cilantro for Cinco de Mayo at that time of year. In the summer you want good produce, fruits and vegetables."
Martha Camacho has been the front-end manager at the south Medford store, a position not doubled up.
While Walmart guidelines and policies provide some uniformity, the interpretation can vary from store to store.
"I found getting everyone on the same page was important, certain ways of doing things at the register, how we maintain our bags," Camacho said. "A lot of things are at a store manager's discretion, based on what's going on."
After spending a year away from the north Medford store, Camacho admits she's eager to return.
"Even just driving past (the north-end store), I get a sense of this being home," she said. "The transition to the new store will be a little easier, because we know what to expect."