A new Fred Meyer store that opened Friday in Palmer drew big crowds. People waited in line hours before the store opened for a chance to get a $500 gift card. By 12 p.m., there wasn’t an empty parking space in sight.

The new store is 137,000 square feet, almost twice as big as the old store, which now sits empty across the street. Fred Meyer Community Affairs specialist Judi Swift said the company made the $35 million investment because they needed more space.

“It became impossible to keep the shelves full,” Swift said. “And I will say it’s the first time Fred Meyer ever built a new store across the street from an old store.”

The new store carries plenty of items the old one didn’t, including a full line of clothing, furniture and sporting goods.

Many Palmer residents said they’d drive to Wasilla or even Anchorage to buy those items in the past. But shoppers aren’t the only ones who are excited about not having to leave town to buy the things they need.

Palmer’s new Fred Meyer even boasts a sushi bar. (Lauren Maxwell / KTVA)

The City of Palmer welcomes the additional business.

Palmer Community Development Director Sandra Garley said there’s a reason they’d like to see those dollars spent in town — the city’s 3 percent sales tax.

“As Fred Meyer is successful at having those dollars spent here, we will be successful in having the sales tax income stay here. And that will give us an opportunity to provide better services to the residents of our community,” said Garley.

The store is holding more giveaways in the weeks to come, according to Swift. Saturday, they plan to handout children’s bike helmets to the first one hundred children in the store, starting at 11:00 am.

KTVA 11’s Lauren Maxwell can be reached via email or on Twitter.