Less than a day after its out-of-the-blue opening, registers were humming and the immense parking lot nearly filled as shoppers Thursday morning tried the new Woodman's Food Market in Lakemoor on for size.
That's a literal description. At 244,171 square feet -- 5.6 acres under roof -- the cavernous store almost requires an advance scout to navigate.
"It was almost overwhelming. It's so big, you can get lost in there," said Nick Reid, who drove south from Fox Lake to the southwest corner of Route 12 and Route 120 for his first visit to the Wisconsin-based grocer.
Reid picked up a rotisserie chicken and other "football food" in advance of the Bears-Packers NFL season opener Thursday night, but didn't have time for a complete shopping trip.
"I'll have to come back and get the lay of the land," he said.
Like other shoppers, Amy Layton of Johnsburg learned of the opening on Facebook as there had been no fanfare and limited advertising. Having never been to a Woodman's, Layton decided to see what it was like.
"I'm impressed. It's big," she said. "I'll give it another try."
Village officials, who incurred a lawsuit by designating the long empty corner as a special financing district to lure development, are counting on that. Built on 74 acres, Woodman's has been in the works for more than three years. It's regarded as the spark for other development on the site and elsewhere.
"This is a different animal," said Jon Hauptman, senior director of retail with Inmar Inc., an analytics firm focused on the food industry. "They're going to be the low-priced leader in the marketplace."
Because of its pricing, Woodman's draws from a much wider area than most other supermarkets, he said, which to an extent offsets its location on the suburban fringe.
"Another thing they'll be strongly competing on is e-commerce -- online ordering, home delivery," Hauptman said. "That's an area they've made significant investment in and paid significant attention to."
Thursday was the first full day of operations. The actual opening was about 3:40 p.m. Wednesday, immediately after village Trustee and 40-plus year resident Ralph Brindise gave Woodman's an occupancy permit and became the first customer.
His initial purchase was modest.
"I grabbed a package of Altoids. My grandkids love 'em," he said. Brindise also signed well wishes on a $20 bill as a store keepsake.
"I didn't have time to stop and get change," he said of the last-second summons.
Other village officials thought it fitting the opening day opportunity go to Brindise, who has served nearly 20 years in separate stretches on the village board beginning in 1996.
"This is the only reason I ever got involved in politics was that corner," he said.
Village officials long have contended that the property would never develop without some type of public assistance, due to the cost of improving the busy intersection and approach roads, and extending sewers, water and other utilities.
The village paid $12 million for that infrastructure. Woodman's lent the village $4 million for that purpose, which will be repaid. The company also will receive a sales tax incentive not to exceed $2 million.