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Monday, June 05, 2006 

Pride: Super Wal-Mart

Man, I totally love Wal-Mart. Not only are they considering selling E-85 at many locations, now they have gone ahead and taken tangible steps to upgrade my personal quality of life.

One of the great mysteries of life in this particular micro-town is that there is a Wal-Mart in the “shopping district”. It is the smallest and oldest Wal-Mart I have ever seen, but it is there and has a pharmacy, which makes life in the outback a little easier. True to form, the pharmacy is not the one I would use except that I really like having a national network where I can get emergency refills while on the road (and yes, I have done so on many occasions). Frankly, the fact that there was a Wal-Mart in town made the sale of the micro-town easier to both me and my wife. The tiny-town I left (3 times the population) didn’t have a Wal-Mart or even a national chain pharmacy.

Anyway, the Wal-Mart deathstar in Arkansas has decided to tear down the current store and use the land as parking for the new SUPER Wal-Mart that is near completion. They have been building this giant store for about a year now and I didn’t really care until someone explained to me that the class of “SUPER” Wal-Marts all have a full supermarket built in (hence the name “super”, I guess).

This got my attention, in fact since I heard that my attention has been “laser-focused”.

One of the major issues of micro-town living is the lack of a decent produce section. I am not talking about deluxe produce retail like the Milwaukee Public Market (ohh baby!), I am talking about having access to simple items like Serrano Chiles and Mangoes (“we don’t get much call fo’ dem fancy-pants plantins ‘round dees parts” – actual local store employee).

So, I decided that I would find a nearby SUPER Wal-Mart and get a preview. The nearest one was about an hour long ride in a town we never heard of before this. We made an adventure of it and looked over the town as well as doing our weekly shopping. We had lots of fun as sightseers in a place that doesn’t get much tourism traffic (as in none). I was surprised to see that there were 2 other supermarkets and a Target store near the SUPER Wal-Mart. I sort of expected to see a vast retail wasteland, which just shows how the power the anti-Wal-Mart propaganda. What I found was a vibrant business section that seemed completely out of place in the rural small town. This area was on the outskirts of town, so I expected that the old downtown area would be a wasteland. I could not have been more wrong. It was very cute with lots of little shops and no (zero, zip, nada) empty storefronts. All in all, a very pleasant little town.

When we got into the supermarket section of the Wal-Mart it was a little like the gates of heaven opened with angels singing and beams of pure sunlight streaming out of the produce section. This place had everything and we looks like the country rubes we are, gawking and commenting on the wonderful selection and how fresh everything was. My endorphin level was already off the meter when I came to the chili section, yes I said SECTION. There were chilis I had only read about (and dreamed of using) and none of them looked shriveled or nasty. I could have taken handfuls and not run out, which is very different from my usual experience. The rest of the supermarket was what you would expect from a “big city” supermarket: a very nice deli, a bakery, good selection of other items.

I was very happy, but I would be even happier when I got through the checkout. Not only was there plenty of open lanes, but the total was much (like 20%) less than the typical shopping trip. Considering I went a little nuts and bought lots of stuff I normally don’t (or can’t) buy, this was a major surprise.

If the new store is half as good as this sample, it will be lightyears ahead of the local stores and the quality of life here in micro-town America will be greatly enhanced.

I’m off to see if I can’t get the construction crew to “put a wiggle in it”.

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