As the new Home Depot in Covington approaches its grand opening on Thursday, it’s obvious to store manager Bill Haytack that the community is excited.
“I had to put signs up on the windows that said ‘Grand Opening June 26th’ because there are so many people coming by,” Haytack said. “I actually caught a couple people in here shopping not too long ago and I had to say, ‘Gosh, I’m sorry, we’re not open yet.’”
The enthusiasm in the community is likely only matched by Haytack’s own, as he and his staff have been getting the store ready for its first official day of business.
Haytack took the Reporter on a full tour of the store last Wednesday. The new store’s manager is coming from Home Depot’s Kent East Hill store where he worked for seven years. This is his first time at the helm, and he couldn’t be more thrilled to be the top man at the “big, beautiful” Covington location, which is just a few miles from his home in Maple Valley.
“Not only do I know a lot of the people in the community because I’ve lived here for 30 years, my wife works for the Tahoma School District, so we know a lot of the kids here,” he said. “We’re really at about 90 to 95 percent local (employees). I get goose bumps talking about that, because that was my dream — to open up this store — and when they actually gave it to me, my wife and I celebrated for what seemed like days.”
Haytack has hired about 140 workers so far and plans to hire more. While he delegates some aspects of the hiring process to his assistant managers, he makes a point of interviewing every person that works in his store as he has “the final say on just about everything that goes on in here.”
“I only brought in about 40 veteran associates, and some of them live out here,” he said. “I do hire a lot of high school kids, and a lot of them are going to get a lot of onboard training.”
Part of that training just comes from the prep work that goes into getting a new store ready.
“We took possession of the building May 19 and we tried to have it ready a week before the grand-opening,” Haytack said. “That’s why you see a big push right now. It’s a lot of work in a very short amount of time.”
Inside the store, there’s 100,000 square feet of retail space to stock, and last Wednesday the store looked like it was almost ready to open.
“One of the other reasons we like to be done early is with so many new associates coming in that have never worked at Home Depot, we like to give them at least a week’s worth of training before they hit the floor,” Haytack said. “Not only will they go to off-site training at other stores to see what it’s really like in the real world in a busy store, we send them down to our training store in Tukwila” for “one-on-one” tips from more seasoned personnel.
There’s nothing about the store Haytack doesn’t like. The garden showroom, for instance, has a green house which he said will keep the plants fresher.
“We have a lot of stuff to offer, including expanded showrooms,” he said. “At most stores when you come in, to get to any of the offices, break room or rest rooms they’re all in the back. Now in the new stores they’re all in the front. It’s very handy not only for the customers, but for the associates, too.”
Also near the front of the store is a space for classes and clinics, which is different compared to his former store, where the clinic space with its bleachers was integrated among displays at the front of the store.
“We’re actually going to have three tables there so customers can come in and sit down,” Haytack said. “It’s going to be a littler quieter just because it’s more out of the way.”
He is also excited about some of the new features in his kitchen, flooring and blinds center, where he has designer Desiree Goumasz working for him.
“She is one of the best designers, really, in the region,” Haytack said. “She’s been designing for years.”
Other highlights, according to Haytack:
• There are a number of tools for someone looking to remodel their kitchen. The store offers pre-made, ready-to-install cabinets in two different colors, as well as design-element towers that look like sections of a Rubik’s cube with rotating sections of tile, countertops and so on.
• There’s a large section of appliances between that showroom and the bath design center, which is next to doors and windows.
• “Designers are going to be available for the special orders that need to be placed,” he said. “And you can have it installed, too. The whole nine yards.”
This Home Depot, while having some new elements and features, is still the same do-it-yourselfer’s haven people have come to know over the years. Haytack wants his staff to be actively involved in ensuring it’s a good neighbor.
“We really are planning to help the community as much as we can,” he said. “Not just donations, but really to get my associates involved in projects, as well.”
Initially, he plans to hand over a $2,000 grant to the Alzheimer’s Association, a cause close to his heart, as his father has battled the disease for some time, as well as providing a $1,000 grant to the local Relay for Life chapter which is hosting its relay event June 27-28 at Tahoma Junior High School.
There is great potential for the store, Haytack said.
“One of the reasons that Home Depot wanted to put a store out here was not only because of the demographics, but if you look further toward Ravensdale, there’s so much growth going on that they could really be able to support a store and have one close by in Kent, but still be able to make each one profitable,” he said. “That’s a huge thing, having growth in the community so the store can grow, so I can hire more people and help more people. It’s going to be awesome. I really feel that this store is going to take off. I think we’re going to be a very busy store and we’re going to have to hire a lot more people.”
Thhe final push toward opening tomorrow (a “soft” opening for local dignitaries and invited guests is planned for today) has been a bit stressful, but worth the effort, Haytack said.
“I feel like this is my baby and I’m giving birth. I don’t know if that’s a bad thing, but I just love it to death,” he said. “It is a huge project and I have a really good team of assistant managers and associates who help me out.”
Staff writer Kris Hill can be reached at (425) 432-1209 (extension 5054) and email@example.com