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Monday, Sep 15, 2014
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Choose your next neighbor: Wal-Mart or Costco?

Published:   |   Updated: August 31, 2014 at 04:22 PM

Once upon a time, there were two superstores.

One store, Wal-Mart was its name, skipped down the path in the forest and found a cozy spot in Carrollwood where it wanted to build a new store. “No, no, no,” said the neighbors in the forest. Wal-Mart huffed, and it puffed, but it could not blow the neighbors down.

The other store, Costco, skipped down the path in the forest and found a cozy spot not too far away in Westchase where it wanted to build a store. Please, please come in, the neighbors basically said. We’ll plant some nice trees, and use the nicest bricks, and your store will be so, so pretty. Do have some tea and cookies, won’t you?

This is a vast exaggeration, of course, but not too much from what I’m told, which begs the question: Is Wal-Mart’s reputation so different than Costco’s that it’s driving the fate of new stores? Perhaps yes.

So gather the children, and I’ll tell you a tale, of how one store won the day and the other cried “Bail!”

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No two stores are the same, no matter the name, but Wal-Mart and Costco had fates that were far from the same.

First, there was Wal-Mart. It wanted a store. It said “Carrollwood, we’ll bring you much more! We’ll bring food. We’ll bring clothes. We’ll bring makeup and candy. We’ll bring soda and shampoo. It will all be so handy.

But the neighbors, they rallied. They marched. They made shirts. They petitioned. They tallied. They cried loud though it hurts. They packed city hall and they wanted their way. “No Wal-Mart, not there. Not ever, no way!”

Wal-Mart hired lawyers. TheyIt said theyit would fight. But it finally relented despite its great might. Instead, it built one nearby, what happened and why?

Why did this happen, oh why, why, why? Let’s ask the wise lawyer, Ron Weaver of Tampa. He knows what’s in store. Let’s hear what he’ll say, I bet he knows more.

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Along came Costco, this year to Westchase. It came with a gigantic question to face. The store is quite big, and quite wide and quite tall. Will neighbors like it? Will they like it at all?

But then something happened, Weaver said, it happened indeed.

The neighbors heard “Costco” instead of Wal-Mart. The deal did not crumble. It did not fall apart. The neighbors had questions, and questions, a lot. But the talks were not angry, not bitter, not fraught.

Wal-Mart pays its workers, Weaver said, quite a bit less. And you’ll soon see Costco just won’t make a mess.

The neighbors had more questions. They had lots of “asks.” But Costco did listen, did not take them to task. “It’s almost like dating,” Weaver, he said, they talked and they bargained. They put problems to bed.

Joaquin Arrillaga, he led Westchase neighbors. A new Wal-Mart, he said, would do them no favors. They had at least four Wal-Marts nearby. So why build another Wal-Mart, oh, why?

Plus Costco, he said, it’s really quite nice. It pays its workers quite a nice price. It pays for health care, it promotes from within. He said all its benefits sound great to him. A stellar name brand, it has a generous heart, even for workers who fetch shopping carts!

The lawyers, I’m sure, they built up some real fees. But now they agree, even on roads and on bricks and on trees. Instead of a drugstore, there will be a nice pond. “Yes!” said the neighbors, “of that we’re quite fond.”

The Costco will go up. There was much celebration. As Ron Weaver said, “They gave us a standing ovation.”

Wal-Mart’s not done, no, not done at all. More stores will come, some even this fall. So here is a long list, a long list indeed, of new Wal-Marts of all sizes and types and each breed.

If there’s a lesson for stores, I’d say it’s this one: Be nice to your workers. Be nice to your neighbors. Because in the end, it is they who can do you real favors.

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A list of some new or pending Wal-Mart stores, with special thanks to Tribune reporter Laura Kinsler for updates in Pasco County:

♦ Bearss/Nebraska: 15302 N. Nebraska Ave., Supercenter. Opened in March.

♦ Carrollwood: 4525 Gunn Highway, Neighborhood Market. Opened Aug. 20.

Clearwater: 2171 Gulf to Bay. Neighborhood Market. Opened Jan. 15.

Greenhouse Shoppes: 3671 W. Hillsborough Ave, Neighborhood Market. Started construction this summer. No opening date disclosed.

Largo: 9020 Ulmerton Road. Neighborhood Market. Opened March 7.

Largo: 2677 Roosevelt Blvd. Supercenter. Opened Jan. 6.

Largo: 990 Missouri Ave. Supercenter. Under construction.

Midtown St. Petersburg: 1794 22nd St. Neighborhood Market. Opened Jan. 29.

♦ New Port Richey: Construction started in July on Pasco’s first Neighborhood Market store in Ridge Plaza. Scheduled to open in early 2015.

Pasadena: 6850 Gulfport Blvd. S. Neighborhood Market. Opened April 9.

Pinellas Park: 7500 66th St. N. Neighborhood Market. Opened July 2013.

Seminole: 10237 Bay Pines Blvd. Supercenter. Opened July 9.

♦ Seminole Heights: 1720 E. Hillsborough Ave., a smaller-sized Supercenter at 120,000 square feet. Started construction this summer. No opening date disclosed.

♦ Wesley Chapel: State Road 56 and Ancient Oaks Boulevard, Neighborhood Market adjacent to existing Sam’s Club. In planning. Wal-Mart bought the parcel in 2009 for $2.4 million.

♦ Wesley Chapel: 28500 State Road 54, Supercenter. Opened Aug. 13.

♦ The company also owns two large undeveloped parcels in Pasco County. In 2006, the company paid $4.8 million for 23 acres just south of Dade City, at U.S. 301 and Clinton Avenue.

rmullins@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7919

Twitter: @DailyDeadline

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