Seventeen years ago, Aura Aguilar watched the Foothill Ranch Walmart open its doors for the first time.
In 2004, she was present for the grand re-opening of the store, following a "facelift" of sorts. On Wednesday, the longtime employee cut the ribbon on the store's latest evolution, with the addition of a full complement of groceries, into a Super Walmart.
Aguilar, surrounded by other employees, store representatives and city officials, wielded oversize scissors Wednesday morning as she snipped through a wide red ribbon to mark the store's 48,000-square-foot expansion.
As she pushed a shopping cart through the newly-opened bakery inside the store at 26502 Towne Center Dr., customer Joyce Chrisman said she has been counting down the days until the new grocery section was opened to the public.
"It's very nice," she said. "It really is a community store."
Chrisman, who lives near the border of Mission Viejo and Lake Forest, said that the Foothill Ranch Walmart is her shopping destination of choice.
"I come here all the time," she said. Chrisman said she called the store to find out when it would hold the grand reopening ceremony so she could attend.
"I'm so happy that they opened the bakery, the deli, the meat...I can do [all my shopping] here now," she said.
As part of the elaborate ceremony Wednesday marking the expansion, attendees said the Pledge of Allegiance, listened to a singer belt out the national anthem and bowed their heads as a pastor blessed the store.
Walmart gave away more than $25,000 in grants, including $15,800 to Children's Hospital of Orange County, $4,250 to the Arthritis Foundation, $5,000 to Lake Forest's and $1,000 to the Orange County Fire Authority.
The expansion puts the store at nearly 175,000 square feet and will employ an additional 85 employees, according to store manager Gail Bell.