Even if Walmart does come to Brooklyn…

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Falling prices landing soon?

Like professional soccer, Budweiser American Ale and turning off your car alarm, megaultrahyper retailer Walmart has never really caught on in New York City. But don’t think they’re sitting there in Arkansas saying to themselves: “Forget it, Jake. It’s Target Town.” News came out this week that Walmart is planning yet another New York City invasion, and this time they could land on the shores of Jamaica Bay at the new Gateway II shopping center, reports Crain’s New York.

Walmart (whose total square footage of its stores is larger than Manhattan, btw) has attempted a few other incursions into the city before. But every time they try to crack the city, community and labor groups rise up in protest and block the way. Community leaders in Jamaica Bay are already vowing a fight too, but maybe they should save their energy. Because even if Walmart does come to Brooklyn, that doesn’t mean Brooklyn will come to Walmart.

We know our average readers don’t typically live in or frequent Jamaica Bay, but a Walmart in Brooklyn is something that could affect the lives of many. Walmart is cheap, sure, but there’s a skin-crawling creepy feeling you get walking through there that makes it feel wrong, kinda like rooting for Duke or laughing at Jay Leno. Conscious shoppers have a problem with Walmart’s absolute control of the marketplace: its ability to dictate prices to undercut competitors, its anti-union stance and other uncool labor practices, its impact on the environment, etc., etc. Even its recent push into the realm of organic products reeks of factory farming and watered-down standards. But the fact is, people keep shopping there, and in droves upon droves. What is it with this blindness to unpleasant business practices in the face of low prices?

When I lived in South Carolina, people (not I) shopped at Walmart because that’s all that was around: there was no Fairway, no Book Court or Green Light, no Fulton Mall, no Sound Fix, not even a Trader Joe’s. Here in Brooklyn, people are fiercely loyal to their local businesses. The Waltons would be laughed out of town if they tried to put a store in Williamsburg or Carroll Gardens. Maybe they’re counting on better luck in the slightly more suburban Jamaica Bay.

Take a look at a site like People of Walmart, and you’ll see an overly mean attempt to pigeonhole Walmart shoppers as knuckle-dragging, Twilight-tattooed dregs of society. That’s certainly not all of Kentucky, or Texas or Virginia you’re looking at, but neither is it Brooklyn. And even if we do get a hankering for that industrial-sized bag of low-grade cheese poofs—a hankering no local business can quite satisfy—Costco and Target: we know where to find you.

In the end, maybe the Jamaica Bay community will keep the retail Goliath out. We’re rooting for it. But if not, and Walmart opens, watch Brooklynites offer up a polite “no thank you.” The store will leave, something else will move into the space and New York City will be Walmart-free once again.

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12 COMMENTS

  1. I used to be a frequent Wal-Mart shopper. Growing up in a small town in Utah, you really didn’t have a choice. I went to college and studied as an Urban Planning student, learning how destructive Big Box can be, but still I shopped at Wal-Mart. I just didn’t have a choice. Oh sure, as I got older I’d buy veggies from the tiny Farmer’s Market or I’d get a few smaller things from local shops, but we didn’t have the options.

    I never begrudge people who shop at Wal-Mart their respectability. Oh sure, some don’t care and just like the cheap convenience. Some though have no choice…Wal-Mart is so incredibly cheap it is ridiculous. It has become a necessary evil in some towns (yeah, yeah, I know that can be changed, blah, blah, longer conversation, blah).

    That said, now that I live in Brooklyn, I realize that NY doesn’t need Wal-Mart. There are so many other options, many as affordable as Wal-Mart, that people can use. I’m sure a Wal-Mart in Jamaica Bay would do fine, but I know I won’t bother. It’s too far, too annoying and I just have better options.

    See you folks at the Fort Greene Farmer’s Market this weekend!

  2. “The Waltons would be laughed out of town if they tried to put a store in Williamsburg or Carroll Gardens. Maybe they’re counting on better luck in the slightly more suburban Jamaica Bay.”

    Seriously? Jamaica isn’t ‘slightly more suburban’ than Carroll Gardens or Williamsburg. Its residence are a lot poorer than the people the people you mention who shop at Sound Fix (what? how is that equivalent?) and Trader Joe’s. People will shop at Walmart because it’s going to be the cheapest, biggest thing around, and after awhile of that, a lot of them will be working at Walmart because it will have underpriced the few local competitors it will have.

  3. Wow. Could this post be any more smug and self-righteous?

    And what the hell is this: “Conscious shoppers have a problem with Walmart’s absolute control of the marketplace: its ability to dictate prices to undercut competitors, its anti-union stance…”

    Trust me, there are plenty of people in this country who love WalMart for exactly these reasons, particularly its anti-union stance. And “absolute control of the marketplace?” WTF?

    Maybe switch off the Michael Moore marathon you apparently have looped and step outside your smug, elistest enclave for a few minutes. People shop at WalMart because it has the lowest prices. Period. I would welcome a WalMart with open arms in the Atlantic Avenue/Park Slope vicinity (where I live), and so would tons of other people, if you self-righteous assholes would get down off your soapboxes long enough to let it happen.

  4. “makes it feel wrong, kinda like rooting for Duke or laughing at Jay Leno”

    Ok, Brokelyn. I’m dropping your state college asses from my RSS feed.

    Sincerely,
    The Changeling (from Bed-Stuy Blog)
    Duke Class of ’93

  5. I think, for the record, this is the first time anyone has ever accused Brokelyn of being elitist. The thing we’re trying to ask, John, is what are you willing to sacrifice for low cost? Or does low cost trump all other concerns for you? Does it the impact walmart would have on other jobs in the neighborhood, jobs that might pay more than minimum wage? The psychology of how far we as a society are willing to go for the lowest cost is what interests me most.

    Oh, and Changeling: GO TERPS! ;-)

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