So there you have it. Walmart’s a done deal, and within a couple years, Del Rio Road will transform from a quiet rural intersection with a few cheap-o stores to a somewhat busier rural intersection with the cheap-o-est store of them all.
What we witnessed last week was the culmination of a retail destiny whose path was set in motion when Trader Joe’s decided in 2006 to build its store in Templeton rather than Atascadero.
Wisely, the upscale grocer chose the more centralized location in the pricier locale over partnering up with the likes of Sam Walton.
Since that time, Trader Joe’s became the anchor of a nice little shopping center that now also features the Pier 46 fish shop, while Del Rio Road’s former outlet center added Big Lots and watched morosely as Office Depot opened and closed so quickly it’s hard to remember it was ever there. A discount grocery store now occupies that spot.
Add in the Dollar Tree nearby and a Kmart down the road, and the arrival in 2014 of a Walmart big-box store will create an uncommon corridor of cut-rate retailers, strung out one after another like a strand of fake pearls.
Not that there’s anything wrong with saving money. If you know me, you know I’ve never met a coupon I didn’t like.
But even if I’m only spending two bucks, I want a certain level of quality.
It would be nice if Atascadero could boost its city coffers and improve the diversity and sophistication of its shopping opportunities at the same time.
It also would be nice if Atascadero showed a little self-confidence, rather than constantly settling for the lowest common retail denominator.
As it is now, the city that’s home to every fast food joint and pizza house known to mankind seems inclined to double down on junk instead.
If you believe you’re no better than this, this is all you’ll ever be.
Despite those past trends, however, I do see one glimmer of hope that Walmart might present, which is that the store could attract some other worthwhile tenants to the Annex across the street — if that property even gets built and if it too isn’t overwhelmed with more underwhelming national chain retailers.
Hey, if we’re going to pave over that property and bathe it in the glow of fluorescent lights, maybe we can at least get a few decent shops or restaurants in the deal.
Best case? Probably Olive Garden.
Worst case? Arkansas Jack’s All-You-Can-Eat Deep-Fried Chicken-Wing House and While-You-Wait Lube Shop.
You can laugh now, but just wait.