By Hilary Corrigan

Wescom News Service

CRESCENT CITY, CALIF. - Del Norte and Curry county residents this week welcomed Home Depot like a long-awaited friend.

andquot;Biggest thing in Del Norte County,andquot; said Les Moen, who has lived in the area for 37 years. andquot;The biggest thing that's happened in a long time.andquot;

The store opened Thursday after a andquot;board-cuttingandquot; ceremony and preview Wednesday night.

Area residents caught up with friends and talked about other chain retailers rumored to be heading to Crescent City, Calif.

Children climbed into sink displays, ran through aisles and swung open refrigerator and dryer doors.

andquot;The whole town's here,andquot; said city resident Chris Atken. andquot;This is the best thing that's happened to this town.andquot;

In planning for more than two years, the store has provided about 125 staff jobs and has sparked talk of coming development.

andquot;It's great for the community,andquot; said Crescent City finance director Edwin Erickson.

Erickson expects that Home Depot's $17 million annual sales projection for the store will put about $150,000 into the city's general fund each year from sales tax revenue.

That would make the store the city's biggest single source of sales tax revenue, which totaled just over $1 million in fiscal year 2006, when the general fund reached about $4.4 million.

It has already attracted more than just local residents.

Cindy Berichon, supervisor of the contractor desk, noted visitors from Eureka, Gold Beach and Coos Bay at Wednesday's opening. The first two contractors to set up accounts on Thursday came from Crescent City and Brookings Berichon said.

Some shoppers have been ready to buy.

Crescent City resident Jim Standring has postponed home and office improvement projects until the store opened.

andquot;I'm still planning my strategy,andquot; Standring said while comparing prices on hot water heaters to those he saw at the Home Depot in Medford, Ore. andquot;Gotta line up all the credit accounts to make the purchases.andquot;

In the flooring section, sales associate Gary Banks answered technical questions from eager customers - how to lay tiles on concrete floors or cracked wood.

Sometimes he pointed to the andquot;I'm in trainingandquot; button pinned to his apron.

andquot;A little overwhelming,andquot; Banks said. andquot;But I enjoy it.andquot;

Steve and Linda Moyle of Harbor showed up at Wednesday's opening with a list of items that they can't find at other area stores.

andquot;We're checking out what they have,andquot; Linda Moyle said.

They planned to return for a pet door and a timer for a waterfall decoration, among other items.

Bill Adams picked up a handful of paint swatches.

The store's selection will make remodeling work easier, Adams said of his project at a Crescent City home that he plans to live in after moving from the Redding area.

He pointed to tools that he can't find elsewhere - a magnetic sweeper, for instance, that picks up loose nails.

andquot;Hardware heaven,andquot; Adams said. andquot;I'm totally elated.andquot;