A large crowd gathered inside Dillons, 517 W. 27th, on Wednesday for a grand re-opening celebration in honor of recent changes made throughout the store.

In the past six months, the location has undergone several updates and enhancements, according to Malinda Thomas, the store’s manager.

“It’s been in our plans for quite a while,” Thomas said. “This side of town is growing, and we needed this.”

Changes include a new natural and organic foods department with expanded offerings and bulk foods, a new beverage center offering fountain sodas and coffee, an enhanced health and beauty department, and a general facelift of various departments throughout the store with new colors, lighting and cases, according to Sheila Lowrie, community and public relations manager for Dillons Stores.

Laura Hertel, Ness City, was shopping during the celebration. She said she drives to Hays and shops at Dillons for her groceries.

“I think it’s pretty awesome,” she said of the updates. “Everything is more precise and clear, and everything is very clean.”

For those who remember what the store looked like before, the changes are apparent, according to Tony Salinas, district manager for Dillons Stores.

“It’s been such a great transition,” he said.

Customers, staff, members of Big Brothers Big Sisters and First Call for Help, and representatives of Thomas More Prep-Marian were some of the many in attendance.

“Hays has been very good to us and it’s exciting to be able to give back in such meaningful ways,” Lowrie said.

Both BBBS and FCFH were presented with checks for $500 on behalf of the store team.

Additionally, after being recognized for outstanding participation in Dillons’ Community Rewards program, a check for $28,486.88 was presented to TMP.

“When it comes to Community Rewards, this team has it going on,” Lowrie said.

After the checks were distributed, a ribbon cutting with Hays Area Chamber of Commerce concluded the celebration.

“It’s takes a lot of people working together to do a remodel,” Lowrie said. “This beautiful store is truly a testament to the level of teamwork and dedication exhibited from across the organization.”