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Thread: In the belly of the Beast: Bentonville, AR

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    In the belly of the Beast: Bentonville, AR

    Bentonville, AR ..... it happens to be the tenth largest city in the state of Arkansas, but for most of us in our chosen profession the name likely evokes different associations.

    I was just looking at some google streetviews of Bentonville, AR and must confess I was a little surprised at what I found.

    Here, see for yourself and take a short drive down S Walton Blvd....
    http://goo.gl/maps/OWP5W
    http://goo.gl/maps/6rr1K
    http://goo.gl/maps/6xcFc

    Make no mistake about who the largest employer in town happens to be, but look at all the other local businesses and small regional chain stores (e.g. Main Street catering, Farmer's Exchange, EZ Mart, Bentonville Butcher & Deli, Diamond Foods, Hanks Furniture warehouse, numerous auto parts stores....) selling the very same products you find in Walmart stores and doing so under the very belly of the Beast.

    When Wallyworld applied for a rezoning and site plan review in my community, many local merchants and frenzied citizen groups were up in arms that they would destroy locally-owned businesses. As it happens, they didn't. Many of you may have first hand experiences with the torch and pitchfork groups yourself. I suppose Wallyworld may have wreaked some havoc on the smallest communities, but are they really the monsters they've been made out to be in terms of their community-wide economic impacts?

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  2. #2
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    Bentonville, AR ..... it happens to be the tenth largest city in the state of Arkansas, but for most of us in our chosen profession the name likely evokes different associations.

    I was just looking at some google streetviews of Bentonville, AR and must confess I was a little surprised at what I found.

    Here, see for yourself and take a short drive down S Walton Blvd....
    http://goo.gl/maps/OWP5W
    http://goo.gl/maps/6rr1K
    http://goo.gl/maps/6xcFc

    Make no mistake about who the largest employer in town happens to be, but look at all the other local businesses and small regional chain stores (e.g. Main Street catering, Farmer's Exchange, EZ Mart, Bentonville Butcher & Deli, Diamond Foods, Hanks Furniture warehouse, numerous auto parts stores....) selling the very same products you find in Walmart stores and doing so under the very belly of the Beast.

    When Wallyworld applied for a rezoning and site plan review in my community, many local merchants and frenzied citizen groups were up in arms that they would destroy locally-owned businesses. As it happens, they didn't. Many of you may have first hand experiences with the torch and pitchfork groups yourself. I suppose Wallyworld may have wreaked some havoc on the smallest communities, but are they really the monsters they've been made out to be in terms of their community-wide economic impacts?
    I think that Maister brings up a good point. I cannot think of one community that I personally visited that Walmart came in and the downtown died. Unless it was a situation where the downtown was 95% dead, in which case Walmart just put the final nail in.

    I do think that I can chance the shopping habits of people and the types of businesses found in downtown. I also noticed none of those places in the photos are very pedestrian friendly.

    I will not go to the walmarts in my area because I rather spend my money at locally owned small businesses.
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

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    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Interesting, too, is that their main office building is very unassuming and, if not for the big sign by the intersection, at first glance driving by you'd think that it was a 1950s-era high school or tech/trade school. It's not flashy at all. And the area around it looks to be absolutely typical of development patterns for a place like that that was developed at the time that it was, with no hints that one of the largest corporations in the World was HQed right there - if you didn't know that you were in Bentonville.

    The Bentonville/Fayetteville/Rogers/Springdale metro area is fast growing and all glopped together is the second biggest metro in the state behind the Little Rock area, kind of like my home metro (the Appleton/Fox Cities area) here in Wisconsin. I-540, which runs the length of the metro, is slated to become I-49, part of a developing new cross-country I-route that is planned to run from the New Orleans area to Kansas City.

    Fascinating, indeed!

    Mike

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    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    I spent some time in NW Arkansas about ten years ago visiting the family of a girl I was dating at the time. The Bentonville/Rogers/Fayetteville area has a lot going for it actually. On the drive over from Missouri I recall thinking how much nicer it was once we crossed over into Arkansas. We also went out to Eureka Springs which is a cool little town in the Ozarks.

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    Cyburbian Rygor's avatar
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    Most downtowns these days aren't catering to general merchandise shoppers looking for discount goods. I think when Walmart comes in it does more damage to other discount big box retailers and grocery stores (if it's a Super Walmart) than it does to the independent businesses. That's exactly what happened when they came into town at my former city. The downtown had long transitioned to niche retailers, art galleries, bars, and non-chain restaurants so the impact was very minimal. For being a very crunchy, liberal college town the outcry was fairly minimal, too. I think maybe they recognized that "Teh Evil Empire" wasn't going to do that much damage.
    "When life gives you lemons, just say 'No thanks'." - Henry Rollins

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    They haven't affected my downtown, but there are perceptions that they would. Our town's founding family maintains the home where the founder lived, and it's divided into boutiques. The descendant's business was a collectible teddy bear and stuffed animal shop and it was delightful. One day I noticed a "store closing" sign, and hurried in to panic shop. She told me that she was closing before Walmart could put her out of business. I guess it was more convenient to blame it on Walmart than to admit she was tired, or that business fell off when the economy took a bad turn. I pointed out that Walmart never sells $200 teddy bears and paid for my purchase.

    The Walmart here opened alomst a year ago. I can't see that's it affected small or big box businesses. I think that we're all just spending more money now that we have another place to shop.

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    Gunfighter Mastiff's avatar
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    Having lived a good part of my life in the area, I can tell you it's very beautiful, with all kinds of amenities, as well as a great business community. Remember, Tyson Chicken and J.B. Hunt are also located there, as we as less known but still plenty large corporations. The nice thing is they give back to the area in major ways. Bud Walton Arena, Tyson Track Center, Walton Art Center, Walton School of Business, etc. I think one reason Wal-Mart didn't kill any downtown cores is that there's plenty of money to spread around, and frankly, people aren't as enamored with the low low LOW price seduction. It's more like just another store, if that makes any sense.
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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    I'm not a fan of Walmart, mainly for the way they treat their suppliers and employees.

    However, I don't think they're responsible for the death of the downtowns of many small American cities and towns. There's documented cases where a Walmart has hurt the downtown of a smaller rural town, but the merchants were often competed directly with Walmart; small five-and-dime stores like Rainbow, rural discount chains like Pamida, very small hardware stores, craft and fabric stores, general sporting goods stores, and the like. I think they had a much larger impact on older big box and strip/mall chains -- discount department stores like Kmart, Ames and Venture; and specialty chains that the inventory of Walmart overlapped, like Kay-Bee Toys. I don't know how Kmart continues to survive, except by inertia; their stores were always disorganized, dirty and understaffed.

    Old-line businesses; independent men's stores, furniture stores, jewelery stores, appliance stores, hardware stores, and the like are still a presence in many smaller downtowns in upstate New York. Those businesses don't compete with Walmart; they carry entirely different lines of goods, and are usually of a much higher quality. The man looking for a suit at an independent men's shop is not the target market for Faded Glory jeans or Walls workwear. There's also very little, if no overlap between the specialty businesses now found in these downtowns, and Walmart. For example, the three fair trade children's clothing and toy stores in my city's downtown have a completely different inventory of goods and customer base than Walmart, as do the other specialty stores.



    A phenomenon at the Walmart here that might be seen elsewhere; it's a draw not for local residents, but rather for those in outlying rural areas. The parking lot is filled with pickups and beater cars, and shoppers are the kinds of folks that you almost never see anywhere else in town; a lot of camo, workwear, WWF/Tapout/airbrush wolf shirts, women with 80s hair, and the like. It looks like the crowd at any Walmart in rural South Carolina.

    Anyhow, that being said, I don't think I could live in a place like Bentonville. Arkansas is a beautiful state, butt my travels through it just turned me off from the place. Huge roadside crosses, billboards encouraging parents to beat their children (!), the whole "what church do you go to?" culture, I-30 between Little Rock and Benton ... meh.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    I'm not a fan of Walmart, mainly for the way they treat their suppliers and employees.

    However, I don't think they're responsible for the death of the downtowns of many small American cities and towns. There's documented cases where a Walmart has hurt the downtown of a smaller rural town, but the merchants were often competed directly with Walmart; small five-and-dime stores like Rainbow, rural discount chains like Pamida, very small hardware stores, craft and fabric stores, general sporting goods stores, and the like. I think they had a much larger impact on older big box and strip/mall chains -- discount department stores like Kmart, Ames and Venture; and specialty chains that the inventory of Walmart overlapped, like Kay-Bee Toys. I don't know how Kmart continues to survive, except by inertia; their stores were always disorganized, dirty and understaffed.

    Old-line businesses; independent men's stores, furniture stores, jewelery stores, appliance stores, hardware stores, and the like are still a presence in many smaller downtowns in upstate New York. Those businesses don't compete with Walmart; they carry entirely different lines of goods, and are usually of a much higher quality. The man looking for a suit at an independent men's shop is not the target market for Faded Glory jeans or Walls workwear. There's also very little, if no overlap between the specialty businesses now found in these downtowns, and Walmart. The three fair trade children's clothing and toy stores in my city's downtown have a completely different inventory of goods and customer base than Walmart, as do the other specialty stores.

    A phenomenon at the Walmart here that might be seen elsewhere; it's a draw not for local residents, but rather for those in outlying rural areas. The parking lot is filled with pickups and beater cars, and shoppers are the kinds of folks that you almost never see anywhere else in town; a lot of camo, workwear, WWF/Tapout/airbrush wolf shirts, women with 80s hair, and the like. It looks like the crowd at any Walmart in rural South Carolina.

    Anyhow, that being said, I don't think I could live in a place like Bentonville. Arkansas is a beautiful state, butt my travels through it just turned me off from the place. Huge roadside crosses, billboards encouraging parents to beat their children (!), the whole "what church do you go to?" culture, I-30 between Little Rock and Benton ... meh.
    I worked and went to school in Greenwood, SC. Population +/- 20K and I would say lower middle income and decently diverse. The downtown district was alive and well when I left to move to NJ with lots of special events and a wide variety of merchants, restaurants, and services. I am sure it's taken a bit of a beating in the downturn. When Walmart originally came to town, it did so without any subsidy or special treatment. It stayed in its location (3 miles from downtown) for about ten years which was and then wanted a bigger footprint. They built a new store just outside of city limits and vacated the old store which I think is still vacant after 10+ years. In a town that small with a surrounding county of only 65K it's hard to find a retailer that would want to go in there. The Lowe's that was near the Walmart also relocated to a bigger store near the new Walmart.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

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    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    For the record - there were no Walmarts where I grew up. I saw my first one when I was 19.

    When Super Walmart came to my town it didn't hurt Main Street at all. What it did hurt was the Walgreens, Kmart, Pink n Save, and Pamida. Instead of empty Main Street storefronts we got empty shells with huge parking lots. I have long wanted to mandate escrow accounts for remodeling or demolishing closed big-box stores because I feel they are worse for a community than a closed Main Street shop.
    I burned down the church to atone for my transgressions.

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    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by stroskey View post
    For the record - there were no Walmarts where I grew up. I saw my first one when I was 19.

    When Super Walmart came to my town it didn't hurt Main Street at all. What it did hurt was the Walgreens, Kmart, Pink n Save, and Pamida. Instead of empty Main Street storefronts we got empty shells with huge parking lots. I have long wanted to mandate escrow accounts for remodeling or demolishing closed big-box stores because I feel they are worse for a community than a closed Main Street shop.
    I've had the same idea. Former big box store buildings rarely get reused and I've seen too make stay vacant and become a blight on the community.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Walmart stayed out of Metro Detroit for the most part until the mid-1990s even then, the stores were few and far between. It had more competition here because several other players had established strong roots. K-Mart was headquartered here, Meijer (the first hypermarket) is also a Michigan-based company so it too had stores in the Detroit area. Target was also here earlier than in most places because it was spun off of Dayton-Hudson (where Hudson's was a long established Department Store).

    Looking at the aerial, I don't see anything remarkable about Bentonville. That supports a lot what people have been saying. I would not be surprised however if other discount stores avoided Bentonville for the same reasons that Walmart avoided Detroit.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    Looking at the aerial, I don't see anything remarkable about Bentonville. That supports a lot what people have been saying. I would not be surprised however if other discount stores avoided Bentonville for the same reasons that Walmart avoided Detroit.
    I thought the same thing, but I found a Target in Rogers, a suburb of Bentonville. The few remaining non-Big Three big box discount department stores, like Meijer, Shopko, and Fred Meyer, are regional, and probably have no plans to expand into Arkansas. It's probably not a lucrative market for them; it's a relatively poor state, and locals are too loyal to Walmart.

    Somewhat off-topic: Walmart didn't arrive in the otherwise chain-repelling Buffalo area until the mid-1990s. Target arrived a bit later. Kohl's didn't arrive until the mid-2000s. A lot of discount department store chains that were otherwise common to upstate New York, like Caldor, Bradlees, and Jamesway, always kept clear of the Buffalo metro.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    I thought the same thing, but I found a Target in Rogers, a suburb of Bentonville. The few remaining non-Big Three big box discount department stores, like Meijer, Shopko, and Fred Meyer, are regional, and probably have no plans to expand into Arkansas. It's probably not a lucrative market for them; it's a relatively poor state, and locals are too loyal to Walmart.
    Not only that, but Walmart* store #1 is still open and operating in Rogers, AR, along with three other stores.

    Quote Originally posted by Whose Yur Planner View post
    I've had the same idea. Former big box store buildings rarely get reused and I've seen too make stay vacant and become a blight on the community.
    Often, companies place clauses in their property deeds that legally prevent their reuse in any way that would compete against their relocated stores (ie, a grocery store that can not be used again to sell groceries or a bank that cannot be reused as a bank). This is a big problem in many areas.

    Mike

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    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mgk920 View post
    Not only that, but Walmart* store #1 is still open and operating in Rogers, AR, along with three other stores.



    Often, companies place clauses in their property deeds that legally prevent their reuse in any way that would compete against their relocated stores (ie, a grocery store that can not be used again to sell groceries or a bank that cannot be reused as a bank). This is a big problem in many areas.

    Mike
    Can anyone with a legal background offer suggestions on banning this practice locally? Our biggest offenders are of course gas stations on parcels that are too small to be anything other than c-store yet can't be a c-store. The inevitable used car and liquor store goes in. Can we outlaw deed restrictions?
    I burned down the church to atone for my transgressions.

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    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by stroskey View post
    Can anyone with a legal background offer suggestions on banning this practice locally? Our biggest offenders are of course gas stations on parcels that are too small to be anything other than c-store yet can't be a c-store. The inevitable used car and liquor store goes in. Can we outlaw deed restrictions?
    While I agree with the the sentiment whole heartly, I don't think you can legally. By their nature, they are private agreements. Most times we don't know about them and can't enforcement them when we do. I have fough that battle many times in a different context.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Whose Yur Planner View post
    I have fough that battle many times in a different context.
    Yeah, I usually get it from the other end, where folks try desperately to get the city to enforce plat restrictions and other private covenants.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

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    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by stroskey View post
    Can anyone with a legal background offer suggestions on banning this practice locally? Our biggest offenders are of course gas stations on parcels that are too small to be anything other than c-store yet can't be a c-store. The inevitable used car and liquor store goes in. Can we outlaw deed restrictions?
    Would it be possible for a municipality to exercise eminent domain over such a deed clause?

    Mike

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mgk920 View post
    Would it be possible for a municipality to exercise eminent domain over such a deed clause?

    Mike
    While that is a good idea, since the Kelo decision, I don't see it happening. The backlash resulting from the Kelo decision changed everything.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

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    Cyburbian
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    Well.. these nice people from Bentonville used outright extortion to intimidate San Diego to repeal its anti-big box law, threatening not only to donate virtually unlimited funds to support of Wal-Mart owned "Right to Shop" candidates against any council member or mayor who dared support the law, and when the city still passed it in 2011, threatened unlmited nuisance limitation and wholly funded recall campaigns in one of the worst scorched-earth single-issue campaigns ever, until the city finally caved and repealed the law, ending a 5 year long effort to ban Wal Mart. And, recently, now that they've started coming to town, they're reportedly handing out photos of known "labor union activists" (like SEIU organizers, I presume) to store security, ordering that they be stopped and expelled from their premises on site. Don't like them very much.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian
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    By the way, does anybody else find it ironic that the official Visitor's Center for Wal Mart in in Bentonville is a traditional American Main Street storefront?

    http://www.arkansas.com/images/photo...nter_001_l.jpg

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    Cyburbian Midori's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by stroskey View post
    Can anyone with a legal background offer suggestions on banning this practice locally? Our biggest offenders are of course gas stations on parcels that are too small to be anything other than c-store yet can't be a c-store. The inevitable used car and liquor store goes in. Can we outlaw deed restrictions?
    I have heard of requiring demolition bonds for retail stores over X square feet. If the store stands empty for a certain period of time and the owner doesn't tear it down, the town can call the bond.

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    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Midori View post
    I have heard of requiring demolition bonds for retail stores over X square feet. If the store stands empty for a certain period of time and the owner doesn't tear it down, the town can call the bond.
    This is a very good idea. It might help solve the empty big box blight syndrome.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

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    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    True....but

    Quote Originally posted by Whose Yur Planner View post
    While that is a good idea, since the Kelo decision, I don't see it happening. The backlash resulting from the Kelo decision changed everything.
    In the case of corner lots and old gas stations without space for much of anything, just go get the land for "road improvements" because everyone loves road improvements like bus stops, bike lanes, wider sidewalks, better cross walks and put trees and bushes on the rest.

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