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Death to Wal-Mart!

OK, that's a bit overstated. But this story warmed my heart.

I am a Wal-Mart customer. I am not a happy nor satisfied Wal-Mart customer, but my own personal economic and other circumstances make it much easier to do quite a bit of my shopping there. For many things where low price is the main factor, I swallow my pride and outrage and schlep over to Wally World.

But I still get a vindictive thrill whenever I hear about them getting bad news. And especially in this case, in Nashua.

One detail barely mentioned in the story about Wal-Mart's attempt to open a SuperCenter in Nashua is the current occupant of the land -- Building 19.

For those of you outside of New England, Building 19 is an institution. Their motto says it all: "Good stuff cheap." they are not only unpretentious, they embody the very quintessence of antipretentiousness. Their studied informality and self-deprecating humor are legendary. For example, they have a standing offer that if you find the same product elsewhere for less, they'll match or beat that price and give you a bottle of their own label of champagne -- "Chateau Cheapo."

The nuts and bolts: Building 19 is a discount store. They buy up insurance salvage, overstocks, irregulars, returns, closeouts, bankruptcy sales, and any other way they can get stuff cheap. They toss out the unsalable stuff and put out the rest in big, open, bare-bones facilities (Nashua's store is a Quonset hut) and rake in the bucks.

I've gotten some amazing deals there. I have a full-length brown suede overcoat with belt and removable liner (with broken zipper on the lining) for a hundred bucks. They have coffee-table books for less than ten bucks. (I picked up the reprints of Jane's Fighting Ships of World War I and World War II for ten bucks each there -- which were amazingly useful when I discussed British warship names recently.) Some of my favorite neckties -- the Dilbert ones, the American flag ones, the ice-cream cone one, and the hot dog one -- all came from there. I once bought a pair of sneakers for ten bucks, then when I got home discovered they were steel-toed. I've bought books, videos, snacks, clothes, tools, electronics, computer games, sporting goods, auto accessories, puzzles, dishes, and numerous other items there -- all for great prices and better-than-expected quality for the price. The secret is to never go there looking for just one specific item.

Building 19 isn't taking the fight for their store lying down. They've had petitions at the registers from the outset, and recently they used the cover of their sales flyer (which have some of the corniest jokes I've ever seen hidden in the margins and blank spaces) to announce a "Does The World Need Another Wal-Mart?" essay contest.

There used to be a Building 19 here in Manchester. When they closed it down and tore it down, I mourned and boycotted the succeeding Osco (now Brooks) Pharmacy. I got over that when I found out that their old building had been condemned, but I still feel guilty whenever I shop there now. And I wish they'd bring one back to Manchester.

A visit to any Wal-Mart is much like any other visit to any other Wal-Mart. But a trip to a Building 19 is an adventure. And if there's one thing people need, it's cheap adventures.


Comments (25)

Ha, "hot dog tie..."<... (Below threshold)

Ha, "hot dog tie..."

I like your taste in ties, Jay Tea.

Building 19 sounds wonderful. But what's difficult to grasp is that WalMart is wanting to take their space away! Can't WM find another space of land to use?

I'm not so much a critic of WM as I am of this situation, which, you're right, seems scurilous -- for consumers, anyway. Although I'm not familiar with Building 19, sounds like a wonderful resource.

Well, good for the zoning b... (Below threshold)

Well, good for the zoning board. And good for whomever collects the taxes there for not basically being bought off. I would hesitate to blame Wal-Mart though, you can shop elsewhere and you can always encourage another discount grocer/retailer to move in with a smaller imprint.

I'm glad that this time eminent domain was not invoked and hopefully local governments will take a similar stance. But that is who to blame or give credit too, the local government. Good for Nashua!

What do you have against fr... (Below threshold)

What do you have against freedom and liberty?

Jay Tea, are you familiar w... (Below threshold)

Jay Tea, are you familiar with the travel writer Bill Bryson? His 'Notes from a Big Country' was a collection of short pieces written for the Guardian charting the first few months of returning to America - specifically New England - after 17 years of living in the UK. It was all about little ways in which his country had changed in his absense - old stores replaced by endless Wal-Marts and the like - folksy humour at it's best.

Every time I read one of these little stories I'm reminded of how similar your style is to Bill's. If you ever decide to write a book, put my name down for the first copy.

I think we need a picture w... (Below threshold)

I think we need a picture with that hot dog tie and the steel-toed tennis shoes.

Ok I know this question has... (Below threshold)

Ok I know this question has nothing to do with this post, but I just wanted to know why some people hate hillary clinton so much. Also who thinks she can win in 08 and be honost don't let your political beliefs get in the way of how you truly feel.

What mesablue wrote (^^).</... (Below threshold)

What mesablue wrote (^^).

I don't mind WalMart(s), so much as I really, really mind the TacoBells and JackInTheBoxes on corner after corner after corner...

I can't understand how those places stay in business, what with the huge amounts of junkfood they'd have to sell every month just to break even, much less make a profit.


Oh, yeah, they sell lots and lots and lots of junkfood every month to lots and lots and lots of people in idling, drivingthrough cars.

Those places truly pollute local environments. Once they're built on any corner, the neighborhood continues a downward spiral and you end up with a downed neighborhood. All that for junkfood. I'll never understand why people allow those places to be built in any neighborhood. Beside a freeway, fine, but not on any local street anywhere because they are gatekeepers for more junking wherever they're built.

Offered without comment:</p... (Below threshold)
Clive Tolson:

Offered without comment:

Fox">http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,148604,00.html">Fox News Now On Gannongate

OMGosh, so now Gannon is in... (Below threshold)

OMGosh, so now Gannon is interwoven with WalMart and FOX News?!? Otherwise, I missed something there (^^), this thread.

I want a Building 19. To h... (Below threshold)

I want a Building 19. To hell with WalMart.

How exactly was Walmart goi... (Below threshold)

How exactly was Walmart going to take that land? Was Building 19 going to sell? If so, you're taking away their right to sell their business as well as taking away Walmart's rights. I'm guessing they were getting a pretty sweet deal for the sale (or could have forced it if Walmart really wanted that site).

As long as there were no eminent domain land-grabs, I fail to see the problem.

Wal-Mart rules.... (Below threshold)
Chris W.:

Wal-Mart rules.

What I hear from some o... (Below threshold)
Art Hippler:

What I hear from some of you is a kind of artsy fartsy complaint that it's so irritating that even poor people can buy good quality things now at decent prices. And whatever happened to those cutesy places that were so muhc fun to go to.
Do you think Wal Mart does well because it coerces people to shop there. As I remember well those cute little places never had much of anything, were overpriced and the workers (apart from owners) were often ignorant and unwilling to help customers. It was only under real competition that regular people could actually get what they wanted.
Wal Mart, Loews, Home Depot and Costco have transformed the availability of low priced good quality goods. What the heck is the complaint?

I'm with ya. Thos... (Below threshold)

I'm with ya.

Those tractor stores (e.g. Central Tractor) are an
adventure, too.

To others here, I happen to... (Below threshold)

To others here, I happen to like (and appreciate) the WalMarts out there, but in this situation, it seems that Jay Tea is fond of a particularly out of the mainstream outlet and for good reason.

I could write the same thing about the loss of a favored open field to a dreaded Taco Bell. WalMart's, once built, have futures but fastfood joints just tend to deteriorate over time and ruin neighborhoods. I've yet to see that not happen but once developed, the open fields don't reappear, at least for much of a time between teardowns and rebuilds.

That Building 19 place sounds great but it's no match for a WalMart in service and function, agreed and most communities probably feel the same way. Anyway, at least WalMart isn't a TacoBell, JackInTheBox, DriveThroughEatEm place and most discount places like Building 19 can always relocate elsewhere to where the taxes are low and dedicated shoppers don't mind driving a ways off main roads to find.

I second Art Hibbler's comm... (Below threshold)

I second Art Hibbler's comment.

And why do they need petitions at the register? Generally speaking if you don't want to sell your building, you don't need a petition from your customers to say "No," you just need customers.

I come from the comp... (Below threshold)

I come from the complete opposite upbringing from J.

I grew up in Chicago, where I knew every fireman, cop, shop owner and yes, ward committeeman in my neighborhood. I looked up to them.

A sense of community that made me feel like I belonged somewhere. I loved that feeling. We took care of each other. No matter our political beliefs. Even in the machine that is Chicago politics, believe me, it's still alive and well. I've seen it from both sides. But, we loved each other, we knew each other and we took care of each other. I miss that.

Point is, as a conservative, what should matter most is holding on to what is best, what is right.

Being true.

It does sometimes reach a point.

We are supposed to believe in opportunity.

Building 19 may not have had that intention, but, there is no way that I can think that a new Wal Mart built on the ground of their competition could be a good thing. Compete, not obliterate.

Good for those that stood up against them.

I am all for free enterprise, until it steps on the toes of those that are actually trying to live the dream.

Be right, or at least try to be right.

We believe in the right of people to be able to follow their dreams, that they are entitled to, it doesn't stop at the board room.

The future of america lies in the arms of those that are willing to be open to the changes that are upon us, I hope it is also in the hands of those who know where we came from and hold onto the strengths and values that got us here.

I am a complete Adam Smith free enterprise supporter. I would also be the first person in line to support Building 19 for their right to exist.

Put the Wal Mart accross the street, see who surives.

They'd probably both do well.

Anyway, that's my rant.

J., thanks for the opportunity.

What some of y'all don't se... (Below threshold)

What some of y'all don't seem to understand is that Wal-Mart apparently was trying to convince the zoning board to condemn Building 19 under eminent domain, on the notion that a Wal-Mart would bring more tax revenue.

That's an abuse of eminent domain, which is something that has been going on way too long and with way too little attention. You use eminent domain to build a road or a school, not a Wal-Mart -- or even a bigger and better Building 19.

Mesablue is right: the way to bring a Wal-Mart into Nashua is to build it on land bought from a willing seller, not confiscated under phony eminent domain proceedings.

Being from a small town, al... (Below threshold)

Being from a small town, allow me to interject my view of the "Wal-Mart Problem."

Wal-Mart built into the multimillion dollar business giant it now is by moving into small towns across America and destroying its competition. When all the local and regional chain general merchandise stores were gone, they began putting in the Supercenters and doing the same thing to local grocers.

Bigger cities don't see the immediate effects as readily as do the small towns and rural counties, but the fact is that Wal-Mart contributes nearly nothing to the local economies, especially in comparison to the local supermarkets. At least in my area of the country, the "mom & pop" grocery stores buy some produce and much of their meat locally. They buy supplies locally. They use local people for repairs and maintenance to their facilities and equipment. And they actually allow their employees to work full-time and enjoy such extravagant benefits as workers' compensation coverage. Wal-Mart, on the other hand, internally handles all of its "expense" items, and is notorious for working hordes of employees 30-32 hours per week to avoid paying out benefits.

The second side of the coin is that Wal-Mart regularly petitions cities to waive land and use taxes on their location, something that local merchants can't normally accomplish. What ends up happening is that the city gives up land that could be taxed when Wal-Mart builds, then loses more tax revenue when other businesses shut down.

Wal-Mart is extremely good at what they do, but what they do isn't always as much in the "best interests" of the community as they would have you believe.

As a small business owner, ... (Below threshold)

As a small business owner, I know what Wal-Mart, Lowes,& Home Depot's do. They have gradually destroyed small town America. Then they would have you believe you are getting quality products at discount prices. (WRONG) What you are getting is Products built to their specs with old names you recognize. An example is at Home Depot you see names like McCulloch and homelite which were once good products. They are now Junk, And at Lowes the cub,Troybuilt,are all MTDS which is mis leading people into thinking they are buying quality but later find ou its is Junk when they can't get it repaired, the other thing is they are outsourcing our jobs while accepting our money, so those of you that are only looking at your own interests keep buying from these Mass merchants but when your job is gone and the junk you bought there doesn't work, you can only blame yourself!

Ah, stay out of Wal-Mart or... (Below threshold)
Just Don:

Ah, stay out of Wal-Mart or quit whining.

wall mart sucks all thay se... (Below threshold)

wall mart sucks all thay sell is crap!

I'm not to torn up about th... (Below threshold)

I'm not to torn up about them losing in Nashua. That road is already a traffic abomination and I don't know that it would have been worse, but I suspect it would. There is a walmart in Hudson that is ok, I just don't know what is the saturation rate for these things. Look at where they are in the area by there own web page.

1. Hudson, NH 03051
2. Derry, NH 03038
3. Chelmsford, MA 01824
4. Salem, NH 03079
5. Manchester, NH 03103
6. Amherst, NH 03031
7. Tewksbury, MA 01876
8. Bedford, NH 03110
9. Methuen, MA 01844
10. Hooksett, NH 03106

You don't have to drive to far to get to one.

I also thought it rather lame that they had to have a variance to fill in about an acre of wet lands for the parking. I thought the lot was pretty large already, but I suppose if you change the building you lose the parking. There is a bunch of wet land there and I just don't see the justification to fill it in when there is other land that they could use.

Wonder why they don't put it a bit further down the road? I mean if you go out past the Home Despot Plateau there is a lot of open area that they could develop. I'd even think that the tax rates would be a bit better if they moved a little.

So what was your point abou... (Below threshold)

So what was your point about Walmart?

As to Building 19, I went to the Salem, NH one once - you have to be a member to go and I don't find shopping adventurous by any means.

So what was the purpose of this article?


Building 19 sounds an awful... (Below threshold)

Building 19 sounds an awful lot like Ollie's Bargain Outlet that we have down in PA. Same MO (buy surplus, fire sale, etc.) and same motto (albeit punctuated as "Good stuff, cheap!"). It was cool enough, but I wouldn't ever place it in "competition" with Wal-Mart, any more than I would a thrift store.

Anyway, to those who think Wal-Mart is "destroying" the country: they have found a niche need that was not filled. This is amazing, because it's a *huge* niche. They sell to lower-income people who need semi-nice things. Are the $4.99 sheet sets I get there going to be as nice as the 60 dollar ones I could get at Bed Bath & Beyond? Fuck no, but they're not going to be only 1/12th as good either. I could get a fancy-schmancy 400 dollar vacuum that will last for two decades and run like a dream, or I can spend $39.95 for the weekly special from Korea that will probably last 5 years, and spend the rest on things like food and rent.

I'm not poor, but I live in a *very* expensive area, so most of my paycheck goes to housing expenses. Sometimes it comes down to having two things we want that we could choose between at "market" prices, or we can go to Wal-Mart and get both. If they achieve that through evil business practices, hey, that sucks, but fight it through the legal system. Again, if emminent domain is being abused, fix that. If they're abusing monpolistic powers, take 'em down. But if they just have a more efficient system that lets them out-compete... hey, I win.






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