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Inside a ‘SmallMart’

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CHICAGO — Last week, we told you a scaled-down Walmart grocery store could be coming to a block near you — so this week we visited one.

We sent a reporter to Chicago to check out two new supermarket-like “SmallMarts” to see exactly what Brooklyn may be getting as the controversial retailer pushes into the borough — and what we found wasn’t your-brother-who-lives-in-Jersey’s Walmart.

In fact, the scaled-down versions of the superstores offer all the conveniences of your local Key Food or Duane Reade, combined with an old-school Sears catalogue store for the Internet age.

Walmart has opened a 10,000-square-foot grocery store dubbed “Walmart Express” — one of only three nationwide — on the South Side of the Second City in a neighborhood similar to Canarsie, Flatlands or Sunset Park.

The boxy Express store is comparable in size to a large Walgreens or Rite Aid and is located in a strip mall off an expressway in a middle-class black neighborhood with ample street parking.

Most customers drive to the store and park in its adjacent lot that contains about 100 spaces, but there is a bus stop nearby for car-less shoppers. (In comparison, a proposed Whole Foods supermarket in Gowanus will have a parking lot that holds two to three times as many cars.)

Inside, the 11-aisle market sells staples such as milk ($2.08 per gallon), eggs ($1.22 per dozen), cut-up whole chicken ($0.98 per pound), ground beef ($3.78 per pound) and fresh fruits and vegetables.

But shoppers can also order more typical Walmart items like televisions, laptops, and even bedding, then have them shipped for free to the store for pickup.

“Futons and mattresses are really popular,” said manager Mark Sanders. “And this week, I had someone order seven rolls of carpet.”

The Express store isn’t Walmart’s only option for setting up shop in a densely populated urban area where space is limited.

Over the past decade, the company has launched 155 “Neighborhood Markets,” grocery stores about three times as large as the Express — including one that opened last week in Chicago’s bustling West Loop, a former industrial neighborhood comparable to DUMBO or the burgeoning waterfront in Williamsburg.

The store we visited had brightly lit aisles with polished produce, and lured in the neighborhood’s business crowd and commuters with inexpensive tuna sandwiches ($3.28), ham and cheese heroes ($4.98 for a foot-long sub) and prepared fruit salads ($4.25).

And like the Walmart Express, shoppers can order large items from Walmart’s website and have them delivered for free to the market.

Walmart executives say that the Chicago markets are a test, and that there are no current plans to put them outside of Chicago, Arkansas, and North Carolina. But such stores are similar to dozens of existing large grocers all over Brooklyn.

“At the end of the day, we want the store size and format to be a reflection of the neighborhood it is in,” said Walmart spokesman Steve Restivo.

Despite advance protests, the store hasn’t been a disaster for other area businesses.

Nine blocks from the Neighborhood Market is Mac Kelly’s Greens N’ Things, which mostly sells takeout salads and sandwiches. The manager has said that the eatery has not felt the so-called “Walmart effect.” But he’s still worried.

“I wouldn’t put anything past [Walmart], said Mac Kelly’s manager Mike, who did not give his last name. “I believe the little guys are going to disappear. You just do the best you can.”

Walmart hasn’t yet committed to opening in Brooklyn, but continues to eye the Gateway II shopping center off the Belt Parkway in East New York as a location for one of its standard big-box department stores.

That project is mired in labor-union–backed protests over the company’s allegedly low pay, so-called union-busting tactics, and supposed detriment to existing mom-and-pop stores.

At the same time, Walmart has lavished the borough with donations over the last two years, supporting the Brooklyn Public Library, the restoration of the nearby Gateway Salt Mash and Borough President Markowitz’s summer concert series.

There are no laws keeping Walmart out of Brooklyn, and the company can open a Superstore, Express, or Neighborhood Market in the borough, subject only to the same city zoning that covers any other store.

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Reader Feedback

Mike from Bay Ridge says:
"There are no laws keeping Walmart out of Brooklyn, and the company can open a Superstore, Express, or Neighborhood Market in the borough, subject only to the same city zoning that covers any other store."

You're kidding, right? If there were no laws, we would have had them years ago. Remind me: Why don't we have "Walmart" Superstores, Expresses or Neighborhood Markets in the borough?
Oct. 6, 2011, 11:38 am
ty from pps says:
Mike -- There's no laws... but there are zoning review boards which are ridiculously political.
Oct. 6, 2011, 11:48 am
Resident from PPW says:
I can't wait for Walmart to come to Brooklyn (and NYC). Competition is good. Lower prices are good.
Oct. 6, 2011, 12:54 pm
Homey from Crooklyn says:
The moonbats will —— and moan and cry and squash it.
Oct. 6, 2011, 1:06 pm
K. from ArKady says:
Why don't you just buy your junky Chinese crap directly from the Chinese who live here? It's cheaper and often better. There is this nabe called China town, have you heard of it?
Oct. 6, 2011, 3:04 pm
UmadBro? from wat says:
Who cares if a walmart opens up? The only people who'll be using it are whit trash and the blacks.
Oct. 6, 2011, 3:35 pm
Mike from Bay Ridge says:
ty from pps: So if I build a Walmart without the zoning review board's approval I won't be breaking any laws?

K. from ArKady: because the Chinese who live here sell them at higher prices than Walmart due to Walmart's cost savings from ordering items in mega-bulk. (Besides, I can't speak Chinese and most of them don't want to speak the language of the white devils.)

UmadBro: if no one cares and only white trash and blacks will shop at Walmart (certainly no non-trash whites, or Hispanics, or Asians, or Middle Easterns, et al. would be caught dead in one), then why hasn't the city let even one Walmart in as a test case just to prove they don't stand a chance of making any money in New York?
Oct. 6, 2011, 4:10 pm
ty from pps says:
Mike -- Did I say that? Or did the article say that?! There are no laws specific to *Walmart* or any particular business. There are laws about the BUILDINGS they usually build -- and the parking and traffic issues. Think about Ikea... and the machinations they needed to perform in order to open in Red Hook. Now ad the political craziness surrounding the *idea* of Walmart.

Can Walmart rent a vacant, existing (former) Walgreens or Pathmark? Yep. Will lawmakers be able to say anything to prevent this? Nope.
Oct. 6, 2011, 6:09 pm
Or from Yellow Hook says:
If Wal-Mart opens, the bribes and "contributions" from organized labor will disappear and the politicians will have to find another source of bribe money.

If you say "no" or "we need to study it more" the bribes keep flowing in.

Wal-Mart opens and the bribes end.

Remember when Manhattan (and most of the rest of the country) had cable TV, and Brooklyn didn't?

If you allow it, the bribes stop.

Christene Quinn, Queen of the Village, and successor to King Michael the First, Mayor for Life, does not want Wal-Mart, even though she's never been in one. Sounds like she's paid for.
Oct. 6, 2011, 6:23 pm
joe carbo from bronx says:
i go to walmart every saturday jn new jersey i shop no where else.
Oct. 6, 2011, 6:25 pm
joe carbo from bronx says:
i am sick of these people telling you where to shop and where not to shop . i will keep gong to walmart .i have 3 kids to feed and walmart gives me the most for my money ,i dont see anyone feeding my kids but me.
Oct. 6, 2011, 6:29 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
If you love to buy something made from workers who have been whipped in the Far East, then Wal-Mart is for you.
Oct. 6, 2011, 9:50 pm
ty from pps says:
Or from Yellow Hook -- Do you ever (i mean EVER) have a thought that isn't deeply rooted in conspiracy theories and how the liberals are spending every waking hour trying to destroy your lives?
Oct. 7, 2011, 12:11 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville says:
That could not have been me posting at 9:50 p.m. yesterday because I was not at my computer. I do not care for Walmart because it's likely they would partner with Bruce Ratner, but on the other hand, they sell lots of car accessories like batteries and spark plugs, and not many bikes.
Oct. 7, 2011, 1:04 am
Charles from Bklyn says:
People who shop at Walmart are basically stating they don't care about this country and their fellow citizens. Saving money on junk trumps doing the right thing. They are saying forgetabout the trade manipulation, unfair labor practices, disparity in wages for women, dumping of workers to state funded medical care, facilitating totalitarian governments, small business destruction, etc. Freedom to shop anywhere? Yes. Freedom to make this country suck a little more? Yes as well. Thank you for shopping at Walmart.
Oct. 7, 2011, 10:20 am
Mike from Bay Ridge says:
Charles from Bklyn: replace "Walmart" with Costco, Staples, Target, K-Mart, JC Penney, Kohls, Sears, PC Richards, and Best Buy, Payless, and I agree 100%. The Community Boards, the zoning review boards, the unions seem to have no problem with them. (Curious.)

Are there actually any large retailers in the country that stocks exclusively--or even mostly--American made goods? Yet, for some reason, people harp on Walmart as if they're the only ones who import from a country that conducts "...trade manipulation, unfair labor practices, disparity in wages for women, dumping of workers to state funded medical care, facilitating totalitarian governments, small business destruction, etc."
Oct. 7, 2011, 2 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
First off, enough with the impersonations, because I find that unprofessional. I have a question to ask those who love Wal-Mart so much. Have any of you ever seen the film Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices? If you did, you would see why there is a lot of opposition to Wal-Mart rather than just think it was made to take cheap shots. Once all the other mom and pop stores go out and Wal-Mart raises their prices after that, don't come crying to me.
Oct. 7, 2011, 4:26 pm
Mike from Bay Ridge says:
Tal: is Wal-Mart the only retailer selling cheap, imported goods? If so, how have they gotten away with it so long and stayed in business if no one wants them?

If you don't want to shop at Wal-Mart, don't; but people should have the option. No one seemed to complain when Duane Reade, Walgreen and Rite Aid moved into their neighborhoods. The poorly run mom-and-pop druge stores closed shop; the well-run mom-and-pop drug stores stayed open. Did anyone come crying to you then?

And I wonder how many more jobs Duane Reade, Walgreen and Rite Aid have created versus the mom-and-pops.

Stop this Luddite nonsense. Bring on the Wal-Marts. Celebrate diversity!
Oct. 7, 2011, 4:40 pm
SOD from PH says:
Wal-mart isn't the only one, it's just the biggest and baddest of them all. I don't think Wal-Mart will ruin any of Brooklyn's retail diversity, not with all the well-educated savvy shoppers living here. But it has replaced many ma and pa stores around the country and made a lot of enemies in the process.
Oct. 7, 2011, 9:02 pm
Scott from Staten Island says:
I would like to point out to everyone that the stores discussed in these stories are GROCERY stores. So all this talk about plastic Chinese products is moot. This isn't about the standard Walmart Superstore. It is about small groceries selling food and pharmaceuticals.
Oct. 8, 2011, 10:50 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Mike, did you watch the film? This is a simple yes and no question. My take is that after reading what you said after that, you probably never did, which may explain why you act pretty defensive on it.
Oct. 9, 2011, 1:19 pm
Mike from Bay Ridge says:
Tal, no, I don't think I ever say the film. I also never saw Michael Moore's "Capitalism: A Love Story," or his other movie, "Sicko." I also don't remember sitting through any Nazi propoganda movies.

Am I not entitled to a well-thought out opinion? Am I not entitled to shop where I want? Am I not entitled to spend my money where I want?

I think we know what your answer to those questions is.
Oct. 10, 2011, 9:27 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Mike, I wasn't trying to change your view on anything, so stop jumping to such conclusions. I only asked you to see it to understand why there are those such as myself on taking such a position. Also, I never said you had to like it, and the same goes with Moore's film, which I didn't say you should see, because it had nothing to do with this. Next, you are probably going to say that film, Battle for Brooklyn, is propaganda as well despite the fact that I didn't even mention it either.
Oct. 10, 2011, 7:21 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
First of all, cut out the impersonations b/c I find them very insulting and downright slanderous. You streetsblogger bike zealouts follow me around the web and smear my name into the mud. On a side note, I could not have posted that message at 7:21 b/c I was attending a neighborhood meeting to discuss Ratner's proposal to bring a WNBA franchise to Bensonhurst. Back tot he issue. Walmart is like Hamas whereas the local retailer is more like Israel, constantly terrorized by the bigger party that does not respect basic human rights. The only things I buy at Warmart are Twinkies, car parts, and soda.
Oct. 11, 2011, 9:20 am
David from Waxhaw NC says:
Who could afford to live in NYC on a Walmart salary?
Oct. 14, 2011, 8:04 am

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