LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A building that sat unused for about eight months is open today, distributing backpacks just before school begins next week.

Mario’s Westside Market opened the doors on the former CVS drugstore building for the first time today, inviting students accompanied by parents to come in and pick up a backpack and school supplies. The backpack event runs from 3 p.m. Friday until 7 p.m.

The market is at Martin L. King Boulevard and Lake Mead Boulevard, on the southeast corner.

Contributions to the back-to-school drive came from Mario’s, U.S. Bank, Anthem, Clark County Recorder Debbie Conway and others. Students from all over the valley are welcome to come get supplies, but they must be accompanied by a parent.

It’s been a long haul for Mario Berlanga to get the deal done, but his grocery store — an institution on the Historic Westside — is expanding with the help of a million-dollar grant allocated by the City of Las Vegas from the American Rescue Plan Act. The opportunity to add a bakery, expand the produce section and other upgrades has been on the table for months.

The deal finally went through in July, and Berlanga said it will take about seven months to move into the building. The old building will be torn down to provide more parking, he said.

County Commissioner William McCurdy announced the deal about three weeks ago. Berlanga said Las Vegas City Councilman Cedric Crear also helped get the deal done. He said there was a lot of paperwork after negotiations to buy the building were complete.

Berlanga said the move to the new building will help the community. He will be able to offer deals he couldn’t before through an advertising program, and the lighting in the parking lot will be improved. But he said the store will continue to play an important role in the community as an independent grocer.

He said his store can do things that chains can’t — like set out a collection jar for someone who needs a little extra help.