Despite the fact that there are already Wal-Mart stores in nearby Massena, Ogdensburg, and Watertown, NY, the retail giant from Arkansas has apparently targeted the town of Potsdam for a new superstore, through their developer, the Sear-Brown Group. Sear-Brown boasts that it has built more than 20 Wal-Mart and Sam’s stores across New York State. Now they want to put another store just north of Potsdam on Route 56 in an area of existing wetlands. Just as they did in Leeds, NY (where Wal-Mart ultimately withdrew), they are proposing a store in a wetlands. So far local officials have been mum about the project, but according to Seedcorn, which is mobilizing efforts to fight the project, town officials have already made a trip to Ticonderoga to visit the Wal-Mart store there, which was also strongly opposed by local residents. One local newspaper, the Daily Courier-Observer, has already editorialized about the Wal-Mart project. “Wal-Mart is often seen as a big business with a ruthless reputation for burying its competition,” the editorial says. “But, as with many things the stereotype should not be clutched on to as fact.” Citizens opposed to the Wal-Mart respond that “the facts” can be found by taking a tour of nearby downtown Massena to see what happens when Wal-Mart comes to town. Although the newspaper asks residents to keep an open mind about the project, it goes on to say that “Wal-Mart officials have to deal with the town and village in a far more forthright manner than they have to date. Lying about who they represent when they came to village and town officials weeks ago is no way to build a relationship.” Who says that Wal-Mart wants to have a relationship with Potsdam? They want to increase their markeet share in the trade area, not get married. The “lying” about what was going on got so heated that Potsdam Mayor Ruth Garner and her town Supervisor had to issue a statement that said they had only a limited amount of information about the Wal-Mart from the developer. The Wal-Mart location is just outside of the village limits. When Wal-Mart battled to get into Ticonderoga, they bussed in employees from their Plattsburg store to hold up “Wal-Mart is #1” signs at citizen rallies against Wal-Mart.
Wal-Mart is like a cheap pair of underwear, they keep creeping up on you. Is it possible that Potsdam officials have begun to gather information on Wal-Mart by going on a company-led tour of their store in Ticonderoga? Maybe they should swing by Lake Placid or New Paltz to see the stores that never got built because of strong municipal opposition to giant retail developments. For more information on the nacent Potsdam battle, contact Seedcorn at (315) 265,4619, or write to Seedcorn, Box 5055, Potsdam, NY 13676.