After a "soft" opening two weeks ago, Big Lots held an official grand opening Aug. 22 for its new prototype store in Reynoldsburg.

After a "soft" opening two weeks ago, Big Lots held an official grand opening Aug. 22 for its new prototype store in Reynoldsburg.

Big Lots officials say the 30,355-square-foot space at 6300 Livingston Ave., formerly occupied by Valu-King, is designed to better compete with other dollar stores and with retailers such as Target, Walmart and Costco.

Among the offerings shoppers might not expect at a Big Lots are a furniture section -- including a financing program -- an increased emphasis on food and the addition of more brand-name items.

The new store in the Century City Shopping Center replaces the Big Lots at 1900 Brice Road.

In addition to the usual ribbon-cutting ceremony last week, the grand opening included an appearance by two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin, children's activities and community awareness programs put on by the Truro Township Fire Department and the Reynoldsburg Police Department, and the presentation of a $1,500 check to Erica Dodson and Dawn McCloud, the principals of Reynoldsburg BELL Early College Academy and HS(2) Health Science and Human Services Academy.

Store representative Toni Fink said Big Lots makes it a practice to give to local schools.

"We have been giving a $1,500 donation to the schools nearest our grand openings for several years now," she said. "It is a thank-you gift for welcoming us to the neighborhood. Big Lots has always put education at the top of its philanthropic list."

Dodson said she was thrilled with the donation, which the two principals will split and use for student incentives.

"Big Lots approached us by sending an email and asking if we wanted to participate in the grand opening," she said. "The money will help us pay for various incentives for students that they earn based on grades, attendance and discipline."

She said the incentives vary, but include things such as popcorn and movie nights, with the movie shown on a big screen in the gymnasium, or prizes to be raffled off or awards for students of the month and most improved student.

McCloud said she and Dodson work closely together as academy principals of the schools located on the East Livingston high school campus.

"We are excited by the partnership," she said. "It will be good for teachers, students and the community."

Dodson said there may also be various internship possibilities for students at Big Lots.

"We think this is a great opportunity and we are very excited to welcome Big Lots as a school partner," she said.

"We are proud to be able to make this donation (to the academies) to further the education of their students and reaffirm our commitment to the surrounding Reynoldsburg community," said David Campisi, Big Lots chief executive officer and president.

He said Big Lots is known for bringing customers a "one-of-a-kind shopping experience."

Store hours are from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday.

Tim Feran of The Columbus Dispatch contributed to this story.