Covington preps to open new Maryville Wal-Mart

By Lance Coleman
Senior reporter
Blount Today

Melvin Covington has more than 300 jobs to fill.

Covington is the new manager of the soon-to-be opened Wal-Mart in Maryville on West Broadway Avenue. He is a Knoxville native who has a background with Wal-Mart and in the grocery industry.

Covington, 51, has been with Wal-Mart 10 years. He worked as a manager trainee for six months before he was promoted to assistant manager and assigned to the Sevierville store. Eight months later he was promoted to co-manager at the Jefferson City store. He was recently named manager of the new Maryville store, and it is his first stint as a general manager.

Covington graduated from Carter High School in East Knoxville.

"I’m an East Tennessee native and that’s the reason I wanted (this store)," he said. "East Tennessee is home and is always going to be home. I appreciate the opportunity to serve the citizens of Maryville as store manager, and I hope to be able to offer them a pleasant shopping experience with a lot of new things."

Covington said the building is called a 193 prototype. While the Alcoa store is a little bigger, the new store has 203,000 square feet and also has a drive-through garden center and several specialty shops.

"I think we have about five leased tenants in the building," he said. "This is actually one of the largest super centers being built now."

Covington said the store will have a wide variety of products. "It’s going to take care of customers in Maryville," he said.

"With the hiring center we’ll utilize at 107 Plymouth Drive, we will be hiring approximately 500 positions within the store," Covington said. "Several of those are key posts, like department managers and back office associates, and we’ll be hiring first and sending them to Alcoa, Turkey Creek and Walker Spring for training," he said.

Covington said the company has changed in the past few years and this has helped it to grow.

"I feel like basically the company is geared more toward individual communities," Covington said. "It’s not a blanket Wal-Mart anymore. We’re trying our best to gear our stores toward what’s going on. Boyce has the (Alcoa and Maryville state football) championship T-shirts. That’s not something every store carries. They let us tailor to specific communities," he said. "We’re more customer and community oriented."

Covington said that as the building is seen from the West Broadway Avenue, long-time Wal-Mart employees will notice a difference in the layout.

"Most Wal-Marts have the food store on left-hand side. This is flipped. Food is on the right-hand side," he said.

There also will be an extended electronics departments with a lot more variety of products. "There’s also more of an area where you can see and touch displays," he said of the electronics department.

The general merchandise will be on one side of build on the left. In addition to the drive-through garden center, there will be a tire lube express.

Covington said with a more streamlined distribution center the company uses, products arrive quicker. "Everything now is operated on a point-of-sale basis. We’re going to attempt to go into something new where turn around time for dry grocery is roughly the next day. We will get the merchandise on the counter faster and make it more readily available for customers," he said.

Covington said the outside parking area will be environmentally friendly. "I’ve actually got 700 hardwood trees that are going to be in the islands and around the building. To me it’s going to beautify the community," he said.

Covington said red elm trees, willow trees, apple trees and a large variety of tree were being planted. "Give those trees a couple years to take hold and grow. It’s going to be sharp," he said.

Alcoa Wal-Mart manager Boyce Smith said he was happy to hear Covington was picked to lead the new store. "We’re really happy the company chose Melvin," Smith said. "He wants to come here and live here a long time and stay in the community.

My big concern was getting someone who wanted to stay here in the community and build a good community relationship. Melvin wants to do that."

Of the 500 jobs Covington had to fill when he was named manager, he’s filled about 120 of them. Some of those positions have been filled by Alcoa Wal-Mart associates who plan to move to the new store. "We’re pleased we’re going to have some associates from the Alcoa store move to the Maryville store to help get it up and running," Smith said.

Smith said Derrick Davis is to be the new store’s general merchandise manager. In anticipation of moving to the new store, Chris Rimmer is being promoted to operations assistant and J.D. Hardiman is being promoted to fresh assistant manager over the food side of store. Rimmer and Hardiman were hourly associates who worked their way into management positions, Smith said.

For information on jobs with the new Wal-Mart, interested individuals can call 865-983-8288. The store is tentatively projected to open on March 14.

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