The Making of a Walmart Shopper

From Flickr user laurieofindy

I’m admitting something that may cause some of my friends to hate and shun me.  Others will try to change my mind, citing all the politically correct reasons why Walmart is evil incarnate.  I know I've crossed a line where some of you can’t and won’t follow.  But, in my little community – the southeastern-most section of Brooklyn Center – Walmart has become one of the places I frequent.

To be honest, the first time I wheeled into the new Walmart in Brooklyn Center this September, I wanted to hate it. Because it occupied the site of my former beloved Brookdale Mall. The working class version of Southdale, it of the famed animal-themed parking signs.

But, as I slowly explored the massive aisles and sections of the new Walmart superstore, it felt like I’d returned to my childhood. It brought to mind pleasant memories of the old Woolworth’s store at Brookdale and the Zayre Shopper’s City on Osseo Road (preceding Brooklyn Blvd.) and 63rd – places my sisters worked during high school.

Here, I saw bicycles, motor oil, frying pans and can openers, socks, coats, gloves. And, look here!  Fabric! Bolts of fabric! And buttons and zippers and thread and yarn and… sewing patterns! OMG! Sewing patterns! All this and groceries too.

One thing even its critics must grudgingly admit: Walmart knows its community and its customers. Where does the working poor go to cash a check or get a refillable debit card with few fees? Where you can buy a pair of inexpensive eyeglasses, get a haircut, pick up a gallon of milk, three yards of flannel and a bra that costs under $10 all in one stop? Walmart.

Will Walmart be the only place I shop? Of course not. (For one thing, its clothing options left me totally underwhelmed. ) I’m still a Target lover and will continue to haunt the downtown and Brooklyn Center Target stores. For large grocery trips, I will still visit Cub Foods down the road. But if I need a loaf of bread, a half gallon of milk or a dozen eggs? A skein of yarn or a crochet hook? You better believe I’ll shop at Walmart.

I know.

The history.

The reputation for treating women employees badly, especially in management positions.

The low wages and asking employees to work on Thanksgiving.

The scorn for unions.

I realize I am a horrible person for admitting this: but Walmart, warts and all, right now in the community in which I live, is a good partner. It’s helping stabilize our local economy, creating much-needed jobs, and helping redevelop even more retail in the overall Shingle Creek Crossing project. The developer also gets kudos from me for cleaning up a section of Shingle Creek, pulling it back into the daylight from its most recent doom of meandering under a parking lot.

Go ahead. I’ve girded my loins. Bring on the haters.

This post, by Sue Warner is republished from the Leadership and Community blog.