You may or may not have heard that the City of San Diego and various other cities in the County have imposed restrictions that prohibit Wal-Mart from opening Supercenters in their cities. There was recently a large debate within the City of San Diego, where the council vote approved a Supercenter but Mayor Sanders vetoed it.
The City of Poway has no restrictions on opening a Supercenter and, apparently, Wal-Mart is looking to expand the current store on Community Road and turn it into a Supercenter. Sadly, this expansion would come at the cost of losing the small market store Plowboys, which is located directly behind Wal-Mart. Personally, I have never shopped at Plowboys, buying my produce at Henry’s instead, but I am still sad to see a small business closed at the hands of a mega-retailer (although, I do a lot of shopping at Wal-Mart).
There is always a debate regarding the benefits and consequences of letting a Supercenter into your neighborhood. Advocates sing about more jobs, lower prices through competition, and the convenience of doing all your shopping in one location. Opponents talk about the non-union labor, increased traffic, and loss of small businesses. Wal-Mart is no longer a store for people on tight budgets. I see families of all types in that store when I shop, people who drive beat up cars and people who drive up in their Mercedes. Are they looking for good prices? Maybe. Perhaps it’s just more convenient to go to Wal-Mart than it is to drive up to Target (which has a terrible parking lot, by the way).
As a consumer, I am always in favor of lower prices and competitive sales. If you lived in a town where there was a privately-owned gas station who could charge $4/gallon because he had no competition, would you really balk at Chevron coming in to provide you with lower gas prices? I also happen to like the convenient location of Wal-Mart. It would take me 10-15 minutes to drive to Target, depending on stoplights and how long it takes to find a parking space. It takes me, maybe, 5 minutes door-to-door to get to Wal-Mart, plus the satisfaction that there is a 90% chance that I am buying something for the lowest price. One could argue that if saving a few cents here and there adds up, perhaps I am buying too much stuff. This is true, but I could also argue that by saving some money buying towels and trash bags, I can use those savings to “splurge” at the farmers market and buy cage-free eggs, organic milk, and fancy produce.
The shopping center at Community Road and Poway Road makes for an efficient visit. I check off the household shopping list at Wal-Mart and buy most grocery produce items at Henry’s. If I need non-procduce items, I will most likely go to the Vons on Scripps Poway Parkway. Why not the Vons on Poway Road? Well, that brings me to me next point of why I think a Supercenter wouldn’t be so bad.
Invariably, whenever I shop at the Vons on Poway Road, the shelves are empty for whichever item I am looking for. Sometimes it’s whipping cream, other times it’s 2% milk, or a can of tomatoes that’s on sale. Then it becomes a matter of buying something else (that is not on sale), buying a brand I don’t want, or leaving and driving to a different store (because you can’t whip regular milk). It’s very frustrating and very inconvenient, especially because we’re dealing with Vons. Does this particular store just not get the deliveries that other stores get? If the Wal-Mart Supercenter did come to pass, I can’t imagine I would ever deal with empty shelves or a lack of milk. Forget lower prices! If a Supercenter would jolt Vons into at least keeping their shelves stocked, that would be a vast improvement!
My main concern with Plowboys being taken over and Wal-Mart expanding to a Supercenter is how this would affect the future of Henry’s. As soon as I heard that Whole Foods had purchased/merged with Wild Oats (which owns and operates Henry’s), I made a trip to Henry’s to buy some cheese and ask what would happen to my neighborhood Henry’s. Whole Foods had said that they would not keep any store locations that could not be converted to a Whole Foods-acceptable store (due to size, location, market, etc). No one at Henry’s had heard that they were in danger, so I breathed a sigh of relief and then kind of forgot about it. Then I heard that Whole Foods was going to get rid of Henry’s because it wasn’t a store that was up to its level in quality. Which I took to mean that they couldn’t justify putting their expensive foods in Henry’s because we’re all used to the “cheap” stuff. But I like having affordable produce and a huge selection of bulk items, and cheap containers of fresh ricotta and cream cheese. I’m hoping Henry’s stays where it is for a long, long time. I hope that once Plowboys is gone, some other mega-retailer doesn’t take away my Henry’s in exchange for another fancy grocery store (I do love Whole Foods, but I could never afford it if Henry’s turned into one).
The big opponents of the Supercenter say that our “city in the country” is losing the mom-and-pop businesses and becoming just another strip mall haven. I can see their point, as we’ve gotten a new Home Depot, Costco, Staples, and Kohl’s all in the short time I’ve lived in Poway. We lost Boll Weevil and picked up more Starbucks, a Jamba Juice, and Chipotle. We still have a butcher down on Midland, and he’s a great resource for things like ribs, game, sausages, and bacon, but if I want to pick up a good steak and I don’t get home until after 6:00 pm, I’m going to Costco. I need big businesses that can afford to stay open a little later until after I get home from work. I don’t have someone to do my shopping and errands for me during the day.
I say we still have a “city in the country”. Poway Days proves it, bringing our community out to mingle for a day or two. We have an amazing community center for just about everyone from seniors to skaters, little kids to little dogs. And, if we find ourselves a little less lazy, we really can walk to almost any center in the city. It’s really not that far. Bring on the Supercenter! We’ll still be a community, just one that spends less money!