Why the fuss? Walmart’s just a store.

It’s said that “a fool and his money are soon parted.” The opposition to a Walmart, particularly in Atascadero, frequently brings this proverb to mind whenever I hear self-appointed “culture monitors” making a bevy of snide remarks about “white trash” and “cheap underwear” ad nauseam whenever the subject of bringing a Walmart to Atascadero is broached.

Mr. Joe Tarica’s recent columns are representative of this appeal to snobbery and intellectual superiority.

In the case of Atascadero, Mr. Tarica has made a number of assertions about Walmart (“Joetopia: Atascadero shoppers deserve better,” July 1). Mr. Tarica states that we shouldn’t settle for second best. We didn’t. Walmart deals in mass marketing and very low prices to be sure, but most of its products are the identical items our “Ivy League cousins” love to boast of obtaining at the “right kind of store” but costing a good deal more.

My oldest daughter works as an accountant for a Southern California firm that imports all sorts of women’s clothing, including lingerie destined for Macy’s, Victoria’s Secret, etc. Interestingly, the same merchandise is also destined for Kmart, Walmart, etc.

The determining factor is what label is sewn on by the several hundred workers who sew on labels for each store, from the same lots of garments. In other words, pay a lot or a little, but the only thing you’re getting is a label.

The same garments are going to upscale and discount chain stores but with different labels and higher or lower price tags. So pay more if you want; it’s your money. But don’t labor under the delusion that you’re getting a superior product; it’s the same product that the working-class family is buying down the street at the local discount store for half the price. So, who’s really “the brighter bulb on the block” in this case?

Mr. Tarica suggested that Atascadero hasn’t used its redevelopment money wisely, with multiple boarded-up shops and a burned-out lot (“Beautification effort takes an ugly turn,” July 8). Quite the contrary: The development of the Colony Square with Galaxy Theatres and the upgrade to Sunken Gardens resulted from redevelopment dollars. The burned-out lot is privately owned; we lost redevelopment money before the city could assist the property owner. You’d think keeping the 85 percent retail sales leakage in a local community, currently lost to Paso Robles or San Luis Obispo, would be applauded by the “activist left,” given that the principles of “smart growth” call for keeping businesses localized for easy shopping access. Walmart costs jobs? What jobs? Good luck finding anything in Atascadero even without the presence of Walmart.

As for small businesses not competing, smart retailers don’t go “head to head” with a discount store. You find a niche and provide what a mass marketing outfit cannot. Additionally, there is the matter of 17,000 Atascadero resident car trips per week to Paso Robles or San Luis Obispo; that’s 20- and 40-mile round-trips, respectively, so how many gallons of gas are required, and what about all that greenhouse gas we’re supposed to be worried about? But, it is a Walmart, and we all know that Walmart is a shortcut to hell, or so we’ve been told for seven years.

The Walmart saga began nearly a decade ago as the city searched diligently for merchants to establish retail outlets in our community. Continuously, we were turned down as “not having the right demographics,” especially population, to justify the placement of a store in our community.

In the case of Trader Joe’s, Atascadero offered a $2 million package to lure them to our city, but we were turned down for Templeton. Previously, Atascadero had a well-earned reputation as being “business unfriendly” and making life difficult for investors.

“Not in my backyard” could have been a city motto. Mid-decade, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. purchased the last large commercial lot in Atascadero. They have gone through a ridiculously long review process and have yet to turn a spade of dirt.

We built Hoover Dam in less time than this project is taking, and in the end, it’s just a store, folks, it’s just a store.


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