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Do Mom-and-Pop Shops Exist in Walmart's Hometown?

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LAND OF THE BIG BOX
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Do Mom-and-Pop shops still exist in Bentonville, Arkansas, home of the original Walmart?

In the latest issue of The New Yorker, Alice Walton, daughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton -- and the third richest woman in America -- tells Rebecca Mead:

"I haven't ever heard of anything that Walmart hasn't been blamed for. ... Look at downtown Bentonville -- it's a very healthy downtown. It's always been very healthy, and we've always had a Walmart."

There are few issues that provoke emotions so strong -- both positive and negative -- as those generated by the arrival of a Walmart in one's hometown.

However, the actual "Walmart effect" is somewhat difficult to pin down.

In 2008, Ronald Wirtz, editor of the fedgazette, a bi-monthly publication from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, wrote:

Despite a considerable amount of research, a definitive consensus about Wal-Mart's effect on local communities is hard to declare. And it's not for lack of effort. Arguably, no firm in the history of commerce has been more scrutinized. Business schools routinely analyze successful firms to discover their secrets of success. But Wal-Mart is one of the few businesses routinely, even energetically, put under the microscope to look for its dark side, to determine whether its genes are compatible with a community's DNA.

That's not to say there are no conclusions whatsoever from the research. In fact, there are conclusions both damning and supportive of Wal-Mart. This is the likely source of the debate's din: When there is doubt or disagreement, talk louder.

With that in mind, let's take a tour of downtown Bentonville -- courtesy of Google Maps, the indispensable tool for those working within Minyanville's travel budget -- starting at the world's first Walmart (now a visitor's center), at 101 North Main Street:





There are two restaurants just up the block:





And a jeweler and an Arvest bank -- whose CEO is Jim Walton, son of Sam -- around the corner:





Across the square, we have the Benton County Courthouse:





Looping back around, we come across a school supply store:





Plus, "I Heart NY Fashion" and the Phat Tire bike shop:





Until we've come full circle:





So, while independent business activity in downtown Bentonville certainly seems to exist, it appears, as is the case in most small burgs, somewhat limited.

Thank God there's a Walmart Supercenter just up the road.
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