Let’s talk downtown Walmart

Meant to blog about this yesterday. Let’s do it now instead.

I don’t want all our fine downtown merchants to think less of me, or think that I think less of them, but my first thought when I heard we might have a Walmart (although a little one) on Assembly Street was to be very pleased.

Actually, it was my second thought. My first was to lament the loss of the ballpark, and to once again feel great regret that when USC was building its superlative venue down by the river, then didn’t do a deal to share it with the AAA team out of Jackson, TN, that really wanted to come here. And then to rend my garments at the thought that there will be NO professional or semipro ball in our capital city for the foreseeable future.

But my second thought was that it would be awesome to be able to get the items that I always save up to buy at Walmart during the working day when I need them. I’m talking little things, like if my allergies act up, I can get some of those little, generic antihistamine/decongestant pills that are so much cheaper there. Now, I have to plan trips to Walmart for weekends or at the end of a long, hard day, on my way home. I therefore loved the idea of the convenience.

But now downtown merchants are up in arms:

Neighbors, environmentalists and owners of small businesses aired their worries Tuesday about the possibility that Capital City Stadium could be converted into downtown Columbia’s first Wal-Mart.

A cadre of detractors complained to a City Council committee Tuesday that allowing the international retail giant into the city would destroy mom-and-pop shops, threaten to increase water pollution in tributaries that feed the already polluted Congaree River and that the project was done in a hush-hush manner by City Council.

“Small business owners are in a panic,” said Leslie Minerd, owner of Five Points retail shop Hip Wa Zee. “A big-box store will help destroy the diversity we have in Columbia. And we don’t have a lot of diversity.”…

And that gets me thinking about the cost of my convenience to friends and neighbors. I haven’t reached any conclusions.

What are y’all’s thoughts?

6 thoughts on “Let’s talk downtown Walmart

  1. `Kathryn Fenner

    There is no intersection between the kinds of merchandise sold at a Walmart Express and the kind sold at Hip Wa Zee, or other diverse merchants. The only in-town competitors are themselves big corporations–dollar stores, CVS, Walgreen’s, Publix. I daresay many of the same people who bewail the impact of Walmart would welcome Trader Joe’s, although that would be a direct competitor to the Gourmet Shop, say….Walmart isn’t cool.

    Walmart did out-compete a lot of small businesses back in the 70s, but mostly they killed K-Mart. I buy what I buy at Walmart and will continue to do so. This way, I won’t have to drive so far and Columbia gets the business license revenue.

    In terms of impact on Olympia,the traffic should be negligible compared to the traffic from the fairgrounds or Williams-Brice–or the USC baseball field. I suspect the impact from the All Local Farmers’ Market next to 701 Whaley is far greater.

    In terms of environmental impact on Rocky Branch Creek: I do not pretend to know, and that could be the biggest drawback. DHEC is toothless as The State has repeatedly established. There are work-arounds in terms of permeable pavement and retention ponds, but will they be implemented?

  2. Karen McLeod

    Kathryn, but the game and fair traffic are of limited duration. Walmart’s goes on forever.

  3. Phillip

    @Kathryn, that’s a good point about Trader Joe’s (also Whole Foods).

    I don’t object to a Walmart Express per se; but, like Brad, I will be really sad to see Capital City Stadium go. Baseball should not end in June, so as great as USC’s teams are, I still like seeing minor league ball in the summer time, and my son and I have enjoyed a number of games in there. Plus that stadium is funky, a little the worse for wear, and I think a city needs some of those places, for texture, for character, to resist the “mall-ification” of its basic nature.

    Besides, ultimately you have to be able to drink beer at a baseball game, and you can’t do that at Carolina Stadium. Plus all those great goofy mid-inning stunts, the kids racing around the basepaths, Bring Your Dog Night, etc. That’s the beautiful summer evening stuff that you can’t get either with USC baseball.

  4. bud

    Are the allergy pills that expensive at CVS? That’s within walking distance of downtown. Even the site of Capitol City Ballpark would require a car and gas. I’d think subtracting that cost would make the CVS trip at least comparable.

  5. Mark Stewart

    Phillip’s comments were spot on. Summer baseball is a bigger loss.

    I’m not really too concerned about this deal. It’s a reach, too say the least.

    But small business owners crying in city hall? I about choked on that.

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