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Chris Malecka replaces Karenlee Carlson as Walmart manager. She is now with the Superior, Wis. Walmart. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Malecka named Walmart manager

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The first day or week of a new job is always stressful.

But Chris Malecka was under more strain than most new employees when he began his job Dec. 7 as the new manager of Park Rapids Walmart.

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Home in Rochester, where he'd moved from, wife Joanie was nine months pregnant with a blizzard bearing down on the city. Malecka was hoping the call didn't come during the height of last week's snowstorm and that if it did, her labor was lengthy enough to allow him commuting time.

Joanie obliged and didn't go into labor. But when her husband suggested she might want to help shovel the foot of new snow there to "help speed things along," his suggestion went over like a one-ton snowball, he admitted.

Baby Boy Malecka will join 20-month old Peyton in the family when he makes his entrance. Malecka is looking forward to having his family united in Park Rapids.

"This is a great community," he said. "I love it here."

Malecka replaces Karenlee Carlson, who took a job earlier this fall at the Superior, Wis., Walmart.

Malecka said managers can stay at various stores as long as they wish; the company does not move them around if they're settled in a community.

A native Minnesotan, Malecka has a father in Pine River. Father and son are Vikings and Twins fans.

"I've hunted here my whole life," he said. He came up this fall, as he has every year, during the deer season. He also hunts grouse.

He said one change in the Park Rapids store has been the expansion of the sporting goods department to accommodate the hunters and anglers in the region.

The Park Rapids store employs around 200 people, he said. Employees don't mind the 24/7 workload.

"We have a great overnight crew," he said. And Walmart employees understand "it's all about taking care of the customers" when they come to the store, whether it's at 3 a.m. on Black Friday or midday during the week.

Malecka began his 11-year Walmart career during high school. He was assigned to a toy department right before Christmas.

He grins, recalling the constant "cleanup in the toy aisle" calls to spiff up that region of the store and pick up the broken merchandise that had been torture tested by tiny hands.

Since then he's worked at several stores throughout the state, most recently at a Rochester location.

Walmart stores have weathered the recession better than other big box stores.

"We want to make a good price impression," said Malecka.

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