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2005-09-28
Hadley, MA. Spaceships Land on Wal-Mart Store

In 1998,Wal-Mart was fighting a citizens group in the small town of Hadley, Massachusetts, located along the umbilical cord that runs between the University of Massachusetts and Smith college. At the time, a citizens group called Hadley First was formed to oppose the project, which sought to build inside the existing Mountain Farms Mall. During hearings on the plan, a letter was sent by Hadley First to the Daily Hampshire Gazette. In the letter, Hadley First pointed out that the 100,000 s.f. Wal-Mart discount store was only the first phase of a larger store to come. The letter included the statement, "Nor has the fact that the second phase of the project is to turn the Wal-Mart discount store into a supercenter, which will include a complete grocery store, received much attention." Hadley First could read the writing on the WAL. After all, by 1998, the number of Wal-Mart discount stores in the U.S. had fallen from 1,990 in 1995, to 1,921 -- and the number kept dropping to 1,353 by 2005 -- a drop of 22% in the inventory of discount stores. Wal-Mart was leaving hundreds of these so-called "dark stores" behind, as they replaced them with much larger superstores. But when Hadley First presented the obvious fact that a discount store was just "phase one", Wal-Mart's regional Director of Community Affairs, Keith Morris, quickly wrote a letter of his own back to the newspaper, denying there was any phase two on the company's drawing board. "Well," Morris wrote, "I can tell you why it has not received much attention. Because such a plan does not exist. I suppose that next we will hear the third phase of the project is to place a landing strip on the roof of the Wal-Mart store so that spaceships can land there." Not a bad suggestion, coming from a Wal-Martian -- but who really was right -- the citizens, or Wal-Mart? In 2005, as it turns out, Wal-Mart landed back in Hadley asking for -- holy Aliens -- a superstore in the same general mall location. The group fighting them now is called Hadley Neighbors, but they are in phase two of the battle -- a phase that Wal-Mart scoffed at, and made absurd jokes about. The group Hadley Neighbors isn't laughing. Hadley First was dead-on right, but local officials ignored the clear warning that in a matter of six years -- Wal-Mart would pick up and leave its building.

What you can do: I may be the only one around who remembers the joke about spaceships landing on the roof. I was working with the group Hadley First, and had helped draft the letter to the editor that the group sent to the Hampshire Gazette. It was obvious to me from my national research of Wal-Mart's "dark stores" that the company had grander plans for the Hadley area, and were only establishing a beach head along Route 9. They were not being forthcoming with the community. Wal-Mart was so afraid that the truth would be known, that they tried to make the thought of a temporary store seem as far out as a UFO, when in fact the citizen's prediction was correct. Keith Morris could always say HE had no direct knowledge of a superstore in the works -- but a 100,000 s.f. store just was never the real goal in Hadley. The smaller store did its job, however, knocking over the Super Kmart that was located across a mall driveway. Now a Target stands where the Kmart once stood, and if a super Wal-Mart comes it will be a stone's throw from two existing grocery stores. More empty stores will be in Hadley's future if the superstore is approved. For everyone in Hadley, it would be far better if Wal-Mart skipped phase two, and went directly to phase three, and began landing spaceships on their roof. That would give the entire region a much-needed boost in tourist revenues. For an earlier story on this subject, search Newsflash by "Hadley."










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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