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A grand opening




Darret Hazlett knows he probably will get his fill of ribbons the next several years.

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Darret Hazlett knows he probably will get his fill of ribbons the next several years.

The manager of the Hobby Lobby store in Hays and his wife, Joice, are expecting their first child, a baby girl, any day now. But Hazlett soon won't forget the significance of a large ribbon he had his hands on Monday.

Hazlett and other employees of Hays' newest business were recognized by the Hays Area Chamber of Commerce at a ribbon cutting in front of their store at 3300 Vine.

After two weeks of preparation, Hays' version of the popular arts and crafts chain opened its doors Thursday, in the middle section of the original Walmart building that now houses three businesses.

Hobby Lobby's long anticipated grand opening had been set for Monday for some time, but managers decided to have a soft opening Thursday "to give the cashiers some practice," Hazlett said.

"But it was a great success for a soft opening," he said.

"It was funny to know you had a soft opening, and this was all filled," District Manager Jeff Daniels from Olathe said while waving his arm toward the parking lot. "We are thrilled to be here and service this community, this region. It hasn't been very soft, but it's been great."

Hazlett said of the four new Hobby Lobby stores that opened across the country during the weekend, Hays' turned in the most sales.

Jesse Grandstaff of Hobby Lobby Management Ministry in Oklahoma City said a short prayer before the ribbon cutting.

"Every store opens with a word of prayer," he said.

"I am so grateful to work for a store like Hobby Lobby," Grandstaff added as he prayed that "every single person who walks through these doors to be blessed."

Coincidentally, the grand opening for the Hays store came on the same day as Hobby Lobby learned it had won a Supreme Court case that challenged a contraception mandate by the Affordable Care Act.

Daniels, who has worked for the Christian-owned Hobby Lobby company for 23 years, was all smiles after learning the news shortly after the grand opening.

"It means a lot for religious freedom," he said.

Daniels also was singing the praises of the reception he and other employees have gotten in Hays.

"You could really feel the excitement building as we were getting ready," he said. "People in town embraced us like no other."

Employees can expect the same for some time to come, said numerous customers who showed up even before the ribbon cutting and anxiously awaited the chance to get inside.

Rhonda Eberle, Hays, was making her second trip to the store after checking it out the first day it opened.

"My neighbor called and said, 'Hobby Lobby is open today. Let's go,' " said Eberle, who was visibly pleased about the short drive across town to one of her favorite stores.

"I used to have to go to Salina to shop at Hobby Lobby and eat at Red Lobster or Olive Garden," she said. "At least one is here now."

Diana Sanders, Great Bend, was in town shopping with her sister-in-law, Donita Schwager.

Schwager was so excited with the thought of shopping in a Hobby Lobby in Hays, she didn't buy a single item in a stop at a Wichita location recently.

"I was saving myself for today," she said.

Sanders is delighted with Hays' new addition, too. The closest Hobby Lobby to Great Bend before now was Salina.

"Believe me, you'll have all of Great Bend here," she said.

Bob Conner, Rozel, approximately 50 miles south of Hays, waited patiently for his wife, Deva, to look at fabric.

The Conners, too, are much closer to Hays than the former nearest Hobby Lobby, in Dodge City.

Bob Conner caught himself glancing at a few items but mostly was content to follow his wife with the cart.

"I'm not a shopper," he said. "But I'm a good cart-pusher."