Wal-Mart leaves large space, neighbors say business will be fine

Coming to work to find a practically barren parking lot at the old Wal-Mart site, Autumn Smith could only compare it to a ghost town.

Smith, manager of Payless Shoes, said her store will survive without the country's largest company as a neighbor. Steady customers will come, she said, but she could already see a difference Wednesday morning with a lack of foot traffic.

"You wouldn't think one store would make such a difference," Smith said.

Small stores in the shopping center between Koontz Lane and Clearview Drive find themselves without a major retail draw with Wal-Mart's Wednesday relocation to a bigger supercenter two miles south on Highway 395. That doesn't bother some of them, though.

Mike Childers, owner of the General Nutrition Center, said he sells such speciality vitamin products, he doesn't expect to be affected.

Susan Paul, manager of PetSupermarket, and Heather Chandler, assistant manager for Pier One Imports, echoed Smith's sentiments that their customers would stay and business would probably be fine. Getting the extra random, walk-through traffic will be the challenge, they said.

Across the country, what super Wal-Mart's do affect are grocery stores. One of Carson City's three Albertson's stores and a Raley's store are located within about two miles of the new supercenter.

Albertson's officials were unavailable for comment Wednesday. Raley's spokeswoman Nicole Townsend said the stores in both Carson City and Gardnerville are consistently voted best grocery store.

"We understand that Wal-Mart is part of the retail landscape," Townsend said. "We've served the community for decades, so we feel we have many customers who have been shopping with us the same amount of time. They see the things that set us apart."

Townsend said Raley's service, quality products and value will continue to keep customers from straying to the Wal-Mart supercenter.

Wal-Mart opened 21 stores across the country Wednesday. All but four were supercenter discount and grocery stores.

Wal-Mart decided to relocate its Carson City store after failing to negotiate an agreement with Raley's which would have allowed it to expand. The company left behind an empty, 119,000-square-foot building that Wal-Mart spokeswoman Amy Hill said shouldn't "be vacant long." What will go in the site is a matter of speculation.

Wal-Mart took with it to Douglas County an estimated $1 million in sales taxes, which makes up roughly 2.5 percent of Carson City's $40 million, sales-tax dependent budget.

City leaders made unsuccessful efforts -- including attempting to broker a deal with Raley's and offering several Carson City sites including the city's fairgrounds and Fuji Park -- to retain the retail giant and its millions in local sales tax revenue.


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