Laurel's new Albertsons grocery store is set to open officially Friday morning.
On Thursday at noon, the store held a soft open for a couple hours to make sure all machines were operating properly.
The store fills a massive need in the community, which has gone without a grocery store since May of 2022. That was when the Reese & Ray's IGA store closed at the same location at 205 S. First Ave.
On Thursday, customers who attended the soft open, like Laurel sisters Jennica and Alexis Lawson, were ecstatic with what they saw.
"It's good," Jennica said. "We need change in our town."
"It's super exciting because it was IGA for the longest time, and now it's a whole new store," Alexis said.
The Lawsons said they were checking out the new property on Thursday and planned to come back to do some real shopping when the store officially opened up Friday morning.
"We're just getting a couple things today and looking around," Alexis said. "We'll probably come through tomorrow when we have time to go grocery shopping."
The store comes with some exciting local products and features. That includes having its own pharmacy and pick-up-and-go parking spots outside, where customers can place orders online and pick up their items without stepping foot inside the building.
It also features Laurel's first Starbucks, but perhaps its greatest addition is the convenience it provides to customers. Walmart in Laurel does sell groceries, but many nearby communities, like Park City, don't have their own stores.
That's why John and Kitty Helfrich, a couple who lives in Park City, were forced to drive all the way to Billings for groceries over the past couple years.
"This is a lot closer," John said Thursday. "It's like 8 miles compared to 20-something miles."
"Being close to home and having everything available," Kitty said of what she was most excited about. "It's just great to have you here and not have to go all the way to Billings."
Albertsons spokesperson Kathy Holland said customers like the Helfriches are exactly what makes these opening day events so special.
"We're super excited to be in the Laurel community and I know that community members here are excited as well," Holland said. "It really helps folks from commuting into Billings and can help support these local towns nearby."
Music to the ears of the Helfriches, who said being inside the store was a little too good to be true.
"I came by and had been peaking through the windows and the shelves were empty," John said. "I was really looking forward to the opening and today, I couldn't believe going down one of the aisles and all of the shelves were full."