Wal-Mart wooed the town of Warr Acres in 1991, and now its walking out on the community for a “bigger” suitor. In a newsflash from November 20, 1998 (see below) we brought you the sad voice of Warr Acres Mayor Tommy Pike, who lamented that his town would lose half a million in sales taxes — or 8% of the town’s budget — when Wal-Mart packed its bags. Now, almost one year later, the 120,000 s.f. store is closing. “I”ve said all along they’d move,” Hizzoner warned a year ago, “with them going to the superstores. Ours just isn’t big enough”. The news reports dated October 26, 1999 say that Warr Acres will lose $900,000 in sales tax annually, and the community has placed a freeze in the Warr Acres Police Department. How long did this ill-fated romance last? Wal-Mart is closing its store — which is the size of 3 football fields — after only eight years in operation. In this small Oklahoma town, Wal-Mart won the battle, but Warr lost.
Warr Acres illustrates the danger of putting all your retail eggs in one corporate basket. Oklahoma has experienced other “love em & leave em” scenarios with Wal-Mart, most vividly portrayed in a March 5, 1995 article in the New York Times about the spurned towns of Nowata, Pawhuska, and Bixby — all of whom suffered from “abandonment” by Wal-Mart. So before you welcome the advances of a large corporation like Wal-Mart, keep in mind that if headquarters decides your store isn’t big enough, or in the right location — or whatever, your town could find itself hosting a piece of the 20 million square feet of empty stores that Wal-Mart Realty has on the books today — two-thirds of it leased space. And as for Mayor Pike, imagine what he would have said in 1991 if Wal-Mart had come to town and told residents: “We’re here for eight years, make the best of it.” As the children in an Oklahoma schoolyard were overheard to chant in a jump rope rhyme: “Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart, Fall Apart, Fall Apart…”