Walt Cook, The Union Democrat

It didn't take long for the crowds to come to Lowe's Monday.

The big-box home improvement store opened its doors in Sonora at 6 a.m. By 9:30 a.m., the parking lot was packed with eager shoppers.

John Guzzetta was one of them.

Guzzetta lives in San Jose and owns a second home in the county.

He was happy to see the 94,000-square-foot store has the same layout as the Lowe's store he's accustomed to in San Jose.

He now plans to shop at the local store for an upcoming roof job,

rather than loading up on supplies in San Jose and driving them here.

Local Lowe's store manager Heather Farris was pleased by Monday's bustling activity.

"It's very exciting," she said. "It's beating my expectations."

She called Sonora a good fit for the store.

"We knew all along that this market was hungry," she said, noting

that most people would rather shop locally than head to the Central

Valley for their home improvement goods.

Each Lowe's store amounts to a roughly $12 million investment for

the company, based in North Carolina, according to company literature.

Each store contains roughly 32,000 different items to help people build, improve and beautify their homes.

The local store has 116 full- and part-time employees. Ninety-four of them are local hires, according to Farris.

In all, the company considered 3,000 applicants for the jobs, she said.

Farris transferred from Chico, where she was a Lowe's store manager, to take the Sonora job.

"This is a wonderful community to raise my children," she said. "It's so welcoming."

A formal grand-opening is slated for the local Lowe's store at 10 a.m. on Thursday.

While taking a break from his shopping, Guzzetta reflected on what

the new Lowe's might mean for the bigger shopping picture. He noted

that he shops at some of the smaller hardware retailers and appreciates

their services.

He hopes that Sonora can support all such businesses, despite the addition of Lowe's.

Lowe's has more than 1,700 stores in the country in all 50 states.

They are the second largest hardware/home improvement chain – second

only to the Home Depot. Their headquarters is based in Mooresville,

N.C., near Charlotte. The average Lowe's store carries 40,000 products

for construction, remodeling, decorating, repair and maintenance.

Contact Walt Cook at wcook@uniondemocrat.com or 588-4530.