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A grand opening is set for 9 a.m. Wednesday for Wal-Mart and 10 a.m. Oct. 21 for Sam's Club.
Just like all the other Wal-Mart endeavors in Hawaii, the majority of associates and managers at the property will be kamaaina, said Cynthia Lin, spokeswoman for Wal-Mart.
About 60 percent of Wal-Mart's management team in Hawaii are Hawaii residents and the majority of the team were promoted from within the company, Lin said.
"Wal-Mart is committed to promoting from within and what we have seen is that over the years so many of our managers have grown with the company," she said.
The Bentonville, Ark.-based company employs about 4,500 associates at its seven Wal-Mart stores and two Sam's Clubs in Hawaii, Lin said.
Fourteen of the 19 managers at the Keeaumoku Wal-Mart are kamaaina as are nine of 17 managers at adjoining Sam's Club, she said.
"We believe in promoting from within here in Hawaii because kamaaina understand the culture and the market better," said Walter Lott, store manager for the Wal-Mart.
In addition, Wal-Mart likes to promote from the ground up, Lin said, adding that more than 70 percent of Wal-Mart and Sam's Club managers in Hawaii started as hourly workers pushing carts, stocking shelves and serving as cashiers.
"I thought my goal was to be a meat cutter," Arias said. "I never imagined that I'd be a general manger of a store with 360 associates."
But Cruz, who got his start pushing carts part time for Price Club before joining Wal-Mart, said he's proof the company stocks big dreams, too.
"Part of me is still the little Filipino kid who came to the United States when I was 11," Cruz said. "I spoke broken English and I was shy, but I'm proof that you don't have to be the smartest guy to succeed, you just need to persevere."
As Cruz encouraged Arias and trained him to ascend to general manager, a friendship developed between the two men.
"I was always following him around asking him questions, learning from him," Arias said.
While Arias relied on Cruz to teach him business and management skills, Cruz relied on Arias to teach him local style.
Yesterday at the Keeaumoku store, Arias was once again walking beside Cruz as the two geared up to open the new store.
But their relationship has evolved beyond mentor and associate, this time it Cruz was asking the questions and it was a fellow general manager who replied.
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