Ashley Archibald, The Union Democrat

Temporary and permanent employees are working to get the finishing touches put on the long-awaited Lowe's Home Improvement Store before its Dec. 27 opening, store officials said.

Installers can now apply for temporary work to ready the 94,000 square foot store for its public debut, said Operations Manager Dale Schenstrom.

The date was adjusted from a tentative soft opening on Christmas Eve, Schenstrom said.

"There was a tentative opening date put out by the corporate office and given to us, and it was going to be the 24th," Schenstrom said. "Since, it's been moved and firmed up to the 27th."

Although Lowe's is opening after the Christmas season, the store hopes to be a destination for major holidays and occasions said store spokeswoman Stacey Lentz.

"Obviously, we like to be the store for the drill for dad and Mother's

Day and Father's Day," Lentz said. "We have a lot of products in stock

that are suitable for gift giving."

The soft opening will give the new store's 120 employees a chance

to get used to their jobs with the public, Schenstrom said.

On top of 94,000 feet of retail space, the new Lowe's also sports a

nearly 26,000 square feet devoted to a garden center, Lentz said.

The store's grand opening will still be held on Dec. 30, and will

be celebrated with a board cutting in place of a ribbon cutting.

The employees and management are excited for the grand opening, Schenstrom said.

"Oh my goodness, you don't even know," he said.

The opening has been a long time coming.

The project has been in the works since 2004.

The troubles started in 2005 when the Sonora City Council approved

the Lowe's project without an environmental impact report. A local

group called Citizens for Responsible Growth took the city to task, and

then re-upped its attack when it felt that the report didn't include

all of the traffic impacts on Old Wards Ferry Road.

The final go-ahead came in December 2007, but a new environmental

impact report was required. Construction began in March 2010.

Contact Ashley Archibald at or 588-4526.