Rodney Turner is probably kicking himself that he didn’t see what was coming sooner. Turner owned an IGA grocery store in the city of Republic, Missouri. This small town of roughly 8,400 people can only support so many grocery stores. For the past 15 years, Turner was able to keep his IGA open. But on Saturday, January 11th, the Republic IGA closed its doors forever. The arrival of a 158,000 s.f. Wal-Mart supercenter was the end of the line for Turner’s IGA. “It was a combination of a lot of things,” Turner told the Springfield News-Leader, “but when you come down to it, the supercenter’s what put us over the edge.” Turner told reporters “We probably should have closed the store the minute they opened the supercenter.” But Turner, who owns 2 other grocery stores in Missouri, kept open. He said the decision to close was a hard one to make after 15 years, but after floundering for a few months, he couldn’t compete with the Wal-Mart supercenter, which had opened in September. So it only took 4 months to drive the independent IGA under. Turner is leaving Republic with a bitter taste in his mouth, because he feels town officials gave Wal-Mart a sweetheart deal that further strained the unfair advantage against him. As if Wal-Mart’s size advantage was not enough, the city gave them some corporate welfare as well. The city of Republic worked out a deal with Wal-Mart in which the city paid $550,000 in infrastructure improvements to the Wal-Mart Route 60 location. “Really, if it wasn’t for the city giving them that money, I”d look at it as what’s fair is fair,” Turner explained. “but then to give tem additional incentive to come, that’s what makes it sour grapes for me.” City officials responded to Turner’s charges by admitting they knew Wal-Mart would put out some smaller, local businesses. “The overall economic benefit to the city as a whole is what the Board of Alderman has to look at,” said the City Administrator. But Turner feels that the city may have hurt its own cause by paving the way for a supercenter. “There’s probably a lot of small businesses that aren’t even looking at Republic because it’s got a supercenter,” he said. But the City sticks by its claim that Wal-Mart has created a “landslide of new development.” In this case, the landslide buried the 15 year old dream of Rodney Turner.
Wal-Mart says it is a “retail magnet”. The company claims that when it comes to town, it creates an “incentive for customers to stay home and spend dollars within the community — not only at Wal-Mart, but at other local businesses as well.” Just ask Rodney Turner.