Over the Hill

Paso’s Wal-Mart faced opposition, too, but not enough to stop it

Wal-Mart opened its store in Paso Robles in 1994 as part of the Woodland Plaza II shopping center on Niblick Road.
Wal-Mart opened its store in Paso Robles in 1994 as part of the Woodland Plaza II shopping center on Niblick Road. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Nordstrom department stores decided to stop selling Ivanka Trump’s line of clothing and accessories. She’s President Donald Trump’s daughter.

You also can’t buy any Ivanka Trump clothing and accessories in the Paso Robles or Arroyo Grande Wal-Marts. But you can buy Ivanka Trump stuff online at www.walmart.com.

You’ll also never find Ivanka Trump merchandise at an Atascadero Wal-Mart, because Wal-Mart announced last week it’s decided not to build a store there after all. For about 10 years, Wal-Mart and the city of Atascadero have been working on plans for a Supercenter at El Camino Real and Del Rio Road, but no more.

Like many retail businesses, Wal-Mart is moving toward doing more business online. I recently bought something online from Wal-Mart — dirt bags for one of our vacuum cleaners. They were sent to the Paso Robles store. I avoided the shipping charge by picking them up there.

I have also bought a few things online from Amazon. The Amazon procedure seemed easier for me to navigate. But keep in mind, I’m an 86-year-old man who can barely dog paddle in the online ocean.

I do, however, often shop at the Paso Robles Wal-Mart. It’s within walking distance of our house. But I usually drive, because it’s only walking distance if I’m not carrying two bags of merchandise.

There were some residents of Atascadero who opposed getting a Wal-Mart. There was also some opposition in Paso Robles before our Wal-Mart opened in 1994. That opposition didn’t come from city officials. They liked the expected increase in sales tax revenues. And many city residents liked the idea of a big new place to buy stuff, possibly cheaper.

But some people almost did prevent the Paso Robles Wal-Mart. They were long-dead members of the Chumash and Salinan tribes. They’d lived on the shopping center site hundreds, maybe thousands of years ago. Some were buried there. Some of their possible 20th century descendants objected strongly and publicly to the Wal-Mart.

They insisted the planned shopping center would desecrate their ancestors’ sacred ground. They negotiated unsuccessfully with the shopping center developer. They sued the developer. The news spread. There was talk of a nationwide Wal-Mart boycott.

Wal-Mart executives pressed the developer to settle with the tribes. The developer said he was sure he could win in court, but reached an agreement with the descendants of the area’s ancient population.

He redesigned the shopping center to leave a low, 1 1/2 -acre hill undeveloped. It’s on your right after you drive into the center’s main entrance and head toward Wal-Mart. It’s possible to walk up on it.

But the popularity of the internet has proven to be stronger these days than the power of the ancient Native American ancestors. The proposed Atascadero Wal-Mart was discarded in favor of online shopping.

Phil Dirkx’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column appears here every week. Reach Dirkx at 238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net.

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