Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Reverse W@l-M@rt

Near us, in a tired, industrial town that has seen better days, the Darth Vader of box stores moved in. My aunt and uncle, who have a motor home, were enthusiastic, but I was suspicious, having heard about employee lock-ins and other atrocious labor practices, and also how these stores kill local economies.

But something strange happened at the one near us. It set up shop in a vast parking lot that had belonged to some industry (manufacturer? refiner? who knows?) and was now a mere vacant space. And now, about five years later, there are 76 stores where once were none. And the few things that were still there--a church, a locally owned restaurant, a hamburger stand--are doing gangbusters business and seeing far more folks coming through than before.

So we joke and call this the Reverse W@l-M@rt, since most of them seem to crush local economies, and this store actually built one.

Now comes this article from Atlantic, about the efforts of the national chain to buy local. (By way of my food guru, Mark Bittman, here, whom I am now thinking was on the ship in the Antarctic where my cousin was married but that is an entirely different story.) And I am thinking it's time to check my preconceptions once again, and make the short-ish drive down there to see what they have in my neck of the woods. Where you are, have you ever shopped for organics at W@l-M@rt? I'm thinking it's not really a bastion of organics around here. But maybe I'm selling the area short. This is a case where I would love to be wrong.


Lilian said...

That was the WM we went to once in a long while when we didn't want to go to the ugly Glenolden one. I recall all the other stores and local businesses around it, so you're absolutely right about this.

Did they become a super WM with grocery store too??? It seems that every WM in the Philly area became one! (although I think the one in Glenolden probably didn't). Anyway, I hardly shop at WM, and when I do it's never for produce. I did notice that they have a growing section of organic/non-toxic personal care products.

Mom24 said...

I have shopped at Walmart, ours does not have much in the way of organics. I just heard an interview with one of the leaders in our area of organic farming. In his view, Walmart is attempting to do the same things to organics that they've done to everything else--insisted on superficially low prices that make it next to impossible to pay people a decent wage and encourage people to take ill-advised short-cuts.

Domestic Goddess said...

That site was once home to Baldwin Locamotives. Next to it, Baldwin towers. My mother worked there a looooong time ago, the towers were once a department store with different departments on each floor, complete with the Jack Benny Elevator Guy. I'm not making this up. I remember passing it as a child and my mother pointed it out to us every single time. When they knocked it down and groomed the land to be sold, did you know there were major environmental issues there? And it took a few more years to get the OK to build there, since they had to clean it up first? And they didn't tell the neighbors right away? Which means their homes were likely contaminated?
Anyways, just a little tidbit.

brandy101 said...

Most of my WM shopping isn't for food items; but I do like that it is available so I get much of my list done in one trip. A WM saved one of our local shipping centers, too. Now a whole bunch of other sotres and restaurants are supported by them as an anchor.

I am not a person who goes out of my way to shop organic anything so I cannot comment on that.

One kudos I have to offer is that the workers at the Super WM in Wisconsin Rapids (near our cabin) are the most AMAZING, helpful clerks EVER!

Phyllis said...

It's good to hear a positive story. WM is coming soon to our little town, much to our dismay. I'm curious to see what effect it'll have.