Its 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 Taricas 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 shouldnt settle for second best. We didnt. 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 womens clothing, including lingerie destined for Macys, Victorias 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 youre 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; its your money. But dont labor under the delusion that youre getting a superior product; its the same product that the working-class family is buying down the street at the local discount store for half the price. So, whos really the brighter bulb on the block in this case?
Mr. Tarica suggested that Atascadero hasnt 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. Youd 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 dont 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; thats 20- and 40-mile round-trips, respectively, so how many gallons of gas are required, and what about all that greenhouse gas were supposed to be worried about? But, it is a Walmart, and we all know that Walmart is a shortcut to hell, or so weve 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 Joes, 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, its just a store, folks, its just a store.
Al Fonzi is a retired Army officer and writes for Atascadero News. He has been married to Atascadero City Councilwoman Roberta Fonzi for 38 years.