What happens when Walmart leaves town

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/02/12/what-happens-when-walmart-leav.html


When I was a kid in the 80s, my town got a mall. It literally emptied out our downtown area. It took closer to 10-15 years for businesses to come back to downtown. Now, it’s thriving, but it took decades.

I’m also filled with dread that the town floated a 12 million bond. I’ve audited cities that make less than that yearly, and that town doesn’t look like their budget is gonna be that big. Helluva gamble.


Watching the video and it mentions that the local hardware store did well after the Walmart left. But it goes on to show its a True Value, which is actually a national chain.

However most places are certainly better off without a large place like Walmart hogging all of the local economy.


For a few years I lived in the town my mom grew up in. It doesn’t count as rural because it’s literally minutes outside of a large city, but it was pretty much eviscerated as a town when a nearby mall and a nearby walmart opened up. Both have since closed. The mall became a local crime hub that no one will pay to tear down but no one uses. Main street never recovered and is mostly shuttered. The value of houses there then plummeted and now since there’s proximity to the city anyway there’s no motivation to open anything there even though this amounts to a 30 to 40 minute drive for groceries, prescriptions, anything really. Mom just moved out, as I imagine most people who could did… leaving what exactly? Cities and towns need to think about these things but they don’t until it’s too late.


I am a fan of both True Value and Ace Hardware stores (for those not in the know…they are not the same company). They both usually have good local ties and always have those real hardware store items in stock that places like Lowes or Home Depot would never dirty themselves to carry. For someone like me who would rather fix a broken screen or window lock rather than just replace the entire thing…I need a True Value/Ace in my town to get that done.

Although a Maitland Hardware would be better…but then you have to deal with hauntings.


Lived in a small town that had a True Value as well, i have nothing against it but i just had to mention that it is a chain. Thankfully they aren’t leeches like Walmart, also there is a local place here in Austin that is partnered with them which is neat. I can order gardening supplies and pick it up at the store which is great as i dont have to worry about paying shipping.


A popular hymn in the right wing conspiracy songbook is that rural areas will be emptied and everyone will be forced to live in cities for greater government control. Part of this is driven by an us vs. them, rural vs. urban cultural divide, but also a general fear of how rural areas are already dying. And yet these same folks will defend Walmart because the founders are conservative, and because of the general “pro-business” attitude on the right. There’s a “not seeing the forest for the trees” problem there, in the same way they talk about American jobs, but then would rather pay less at Walmart for something made in China that ends up killing US manufacturing.


Near my city, the first hardware store
in the country went out of business .
It had been operating since 1792.,
on the city’s Main St.
It joined all the other small local
business that have closed up…
some many years ago and some
never recovered from the '08 crash.

The few times I had visited this small, rather inconspicuous store, I recognized
the scents of wood, grease, metals and paints.
Sigh…it was lovely.


I think the problem is the big, closed mall with a supersore, not having a supermarket or a small shop that is owned or is a frachisee of a national chain.
Fist of all these building can’t be easily repurposed and the only option is to tear down them. Then you have people that are driving to get groceries insted to buy them across the road, increasing pollution.

I have nearby a national chain supermarke and a grocery shop in franchisin, but there are also a sheep meat shop and a pig an beef meat shop, a couple of bakeries, a store brand fashion shop, a couple of independent fashion shops and even a Chinese tailor that makes dresses on request. So the local shops are thiving and also the national supermarkets.

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Keep in mind, though, that True Value stores are locally-owned franchises (also the case for Ace Hardware). I’m very glad there’s an Ace in my town, and they manage to keep it going in spite of a Lowe’s and a Home Depot ten minutes away.

TL;DW for the video clip: Downtown has recovered some, but not completely. At least it’s not a complete doom-and-gloom situation where there was nothing left to recover.


Reminds me of early boom and busts of Pizza Huts and how their very distinctive buildings were slowly repurposed over the years. Something BB has covered :slight_smile:


I believe the big-name old-school hardware stores (Ace, True Value, Do it Best) are co-ops. The stores are locally owned and managed independently, but they get some of the advantages of being part of a large chain, too.


In the next town over from me, Pizza Hut has been in three different locations over time. First, an early-'70s hut with the classic trapezoidal windows, then a larger brick hut a few blocks west, and now a strip mall storefront a mile or so east. The brick hut has been empty for a long time now, while the first one is now a Mexican restaurant.

Another favorite of mine are repurposed Taco Bells, especially when they’re resurrected as real Mexican restaurants.


Totally agree. A recent trip to my local Ace Hardware was to buy a single ceramic fuse for a piece of exercise equipment I inherited from my dad which was so old that when I called the company that bought out the company it was made by, they actually laughed when I asked if there was any chance of a paper manual or if they had a link (I couldn’t find one) to an online manual so I could fix the over-25-years-old machine. The guy at Ace spent a good deal of time making sure we got exactly the right fuse from an entire aisle of little boxes of every possible size, amperage, etc. I paid with CHANGE. Fixed the machine.



Stores like True Value are franchised, but I get your larger point (I think). As they’re franchises, the owners can pretty much sell anything they want after the corporate-mandated necessities. I went to college in Socorro, NM, which is an hour south of Albuquerque with virtually nothing around it for an hour in any direction except for mountainous desert. Since 2003 when I was there, a Walmart moved to town, but at the time True Value was the only place to buy the things you couldn’t buy at the grocery store or campus book store, namely underwear, pretty much anything related to Xmas, video games, etc. It was practically a locally-owned small Walmart. Compare that to the True Value where I live in northern Delaware / suburban Philly now pretty much sticks to hardware.


Without taking it too far, it reminded me of some of the observations Kowinski made in his The Malling of America: An Inside Look at the Great Consumer Paradise

Cathedrals of Consumption (NYT)


I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess you’re not a millenial.

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Speaking of repurposed properties, that Walmart looks like it could become a great skating rink/go-kart track.

Or a combination of the two… :ice_skate::red_car: :skull_and_crossbones:


That’s cool! As the donut lady said, what brought us here? There was nothing here. It’s obvious that Walmart is going to crush anything else around it, so remove that, it lets new things flourish, keeps money in the local control, builds a stronger community.

They could be repurposed as affordable housing, schools, or the local town could issue a bond and use it to fund startups.