‘No, my hometown didn’t have a Costco’
When I was growing up Midcentury-Modern Style in the Midwest, my very small home town had a main street with a few stores (and several taverns) on it.
If you wanted to, say, buy a Christmas present for your mom (Evening in Paris was a popular choice), you’d take your allowance or your paper route money and go to the Dime Store. (Ours was a Ben Franklin, but we always called it the “Dime Store”.) Which was owned by a really crabby guy who totally didn’t like kids and would follow you around like you were going to shoplift. There really wasn’t any other option.
Then, sometime after I’d gone off to college, a Walmart came to town. It was out on the west end by the Dairy King (totally different from the Dairy Queen). A (gasp) Walmart.
Did my town protest? Did they try to keep that Walmart out? No way. They welcomed it, big-time. I remember reading a Big Story about its Grand Opening in the local paper (which I subscribed to because I worked there during the summers.) And it was only a matter of time — and not much time, either — before everyone was shopping at this new Walmart.
They weren’t crabby at Walmart, for one thing. They had (and still do have) these Greeters, who go “Welcome to Walmart” when you come in the door, and say “Thank you for shopping, please come again” when you leave. Take that, crabby Dime Store Guy.
And Walmart had everything. You could buy not only giant cartons of milk and huuuuuge bags of Cheetos, you could get rose mulch and stereos and DVDs and khaki pants and baby shoes and glitter. My Nephew once bought a BB gun there. (Walmart cheerfully took it back, even though it had been fired, when he returned it for some reason I do not recall, probably involving his absent mother.)
Walmart became so popular (at least in my family) that I remember coming home for some sort of school break, sitting at the kitchen table sipping coffee, when Mom goes, “Who wants to go on a Walmart Run?” Turns out a “Walmart Run” was a Thing.
My Late Lamented Dad even called The Child “Walmart” — before and after she was born. See, while preggers with her, I was of course asked many times what names The Dude and I were considering for our imminent bundle of joy. Sometimes, if feeling feisty, I’d do a riff on the trend for non-traditional names. Which is perfectly okay by me, O You Who Have Named Your Child “Brie”. I just happen to think it amusing to name a child after a type of cheese. If “Brie” is cool, why not “Cheddar”? Or, how ’bout this one: “Time for supper, Camembert!”
Anyway, I’d been amusing my father with this funny-name bit; had run through the Cheese Names and the State Names (If “Montana” and “Dakota” are cool, why not “Delaware”?) and even the Neighborhoods in New York City names (If “Chelsea” is hip, why not “Soho”? Or “Tribeca”?) Well, I was just getting into the Store Names (I like “Tiffany” for a girl, and I think “Duane Reade” is rather distinguished for a boy, don’t you?) — when Dad pipes up. “Walmart”! It’s a great name for a boy or a girl.
So he called her “Walmart”. For years.
Speaking of children, we recently enjoyed our annual visit from The Dude’s nephew, his amazing wife and their three-count-em-three frisky and adorable girls. The Dude and I, being grandchildless, are drawn like moths to their collective flame. But then so are The Child and her BF.
This is the nephew and wife who started a chocolate company (yes, they started it!) that you may have heard of. It’s called Taza, and makes incredibly delish stone-ground chocolate. They make dozens of products (I have to hide the chocolate-covered hazelnuts from The Dude’s Brother Bill) but on this visit they were most excited by a new one they developed for Costco.
Now, you can indeed find Taza products at your friendly neighborhood Walmart. But Costco, unlike Walmart, is a membership-only buying club. And it, well, has a certain je ne sais quois. New York City Upper East-Siders who wouldn’t be caught dead in a Walmart will happily drive their Range Rovers up to Northern Manhattan (yes, I said “Manhattan”) to stock up on organic stock from free-range chickens (as well as their eggs) and almond milk (no doubt from free-range almonds) and the like.
This new Taza product, being Paleo and all, is a perfect foodie fit for Costco-goers. (I tried some, and even though I am not a Paleo Person, it certainly hit my personal Sweet Spot.) We were pretty excited for them — and for the lucky Costco-goers who get to buy it. I’m betting it’ll be such a big hit that sometime soon I’ll be hearing my fellow Upper East-Siders saying, “Hey, who wants to go on a Costco Run?”
New York City. June 2019
36 thoughts on “Who wants to go on a Walmart Run?”
I tell ya, in the immortal and still totally true words of Yakov Smirnoff “America – What A Country!” and also, in my own words, what a very large and diverse country so, if you can, you really must traverse it from sea to shining sea. This based on my personal experience, limited though they may be, which are summarized as follows, by way of Walmart/Costco comparison.
I grew up and lived in the L.A. area until 2006. Walmart had barely made its earliest encroachments into my OC beachside neck of the wood around the time I left. Target was the big thing/competition for them then, and in many ways still is. Not the least of these is a pretty common commercial that I believe is shown nationwide with the tagline “Target run and done.” At that level, it’s still more about the economics and the efficiency of shopping at the “supercenter” of your choice between these two.
As a matter of fact, I discovered upon my move from CA to TN that in most parts of the country, where Target and Walmart are equally easy to navigate to and through, your average Target shopper will look down their nose at your average Walmart shopper. This has certainly held true in the smallish East TN town where I now reside. Citizens who recall when Walmart came to town are still griping about the Walton family’s personal business noncompete clause that ended whatever faint hopes they’d had of landing a Target, too. Of course, it was also fitting and proper that the Target was to be located on top of a hill with a beautiful view of the surrounding landscape, looking down on the older and grungier Walmart. Alas, though possibly not as a direct result of the Walmart noncompete clause, we never got our Target, which would not have been located in the same commercial development as the Walmart anyway.
Now Costco and the products they carry are at least a step above Target when it comes to quality, and sometimes pricing but certainly in terms of the snootiness (or should I say politically correct) factor. Target carries its own “designer” labels, but those carried by Costco are by much more well known names, again with price tags to match. For those reasons alone, I salute your chocolate making nephew for obtaining a presence on Costco’s shelves. Since I’m retired but still reading nearly everything I can get my hands on that comes through my mailbox on a regular basis. I read the Costco magazine, which is where I learned much of what I’ve shared with you here. That’s why you uppity urban New Yorkers will stampede to Costco while barely acknowledging the existence of Target and seriously maintaining ignorance of any facet of the Walmart brand, possibly even including a female Walton’s personal art museum in the small Arkansas town that is the company’s (and family’s) headquarters.
I almost missed your incredible comment! I was traveling back from my Mom’s 90th birthday do, where the cake — and most everything else — came from (you guessed it) Walmart! Even though I have been a New Yorker for more than 40 years, I would never look down my own personal schnozz at a Walmart. But then again, I have no opportunity to demonstrate my non-snootiness since there are no Walmarts here. BTW, I once was heavily recruited to go work for Walmart as their head of advertising. I have to thank you again, because you just gave me an idea for a future post!
Sounds like my family, although Grandpa called it “the” Walmart! BTW, there’s still a Dairy King in Breese, Illinois. 🙂
Wow! Are you a fellow Southern Illinoisian?!?
Hey there Alice! I wanted to let you know that I nominated you for a Sunshine Blogger award https://pollyannaspath.com/2019/07/03/woo-hoo/ I hope you’ll play along!
Hey Rhonda! You are Simply Swell! I will figure something out; maybe a special page. And thanks! xoxo
You are welcome! Look forward to seeing what you come up with 🙂
I’ve never been to a Costco before, only to Walmart, and the one impression left on me about Walmart is that they are *huge*. It really is a bit of everything.
And Free Range almonds is a thing, today. 😉
I’ve never really been to a Costco either. Once, only to check out how they were displaying the Pantene shampoos and conditioners (I was working on the Pantene account at the time, and it was a business visit with the client.) I remember that the hugeness was an even bigger hugeness than the Walmart kind. (They actually had a speedboat for sale, suspended from the ceiling! I’d like to see somebody put THAT in their cart!) And hey, now I want to Google “free-range almonds”! Thanks for stopping by xoxo
Even bigger than what I saw? Boats?? ?
Yup! Boats! And boatloads of other stuff (!)
Really fun to read all your memories of Wal-Mart! And see your personal family photos (love seeing people’s family photos). Also, the Taza chocolate sounds amazing and will definitely check it out when I am at Costco! Thanks! — Paige Bainbridge, http://www.paigebainbridge.com
Thank you for taking the time to read and comment, Paige! So glad you got a kick out of my Walmart Memories (though they are much more recent than most of my memories!) Yes, please do check out Taza Chocolate — even if my niece and nephew didn’t own the company I’d have to admit that it’s pretty darned delish!
I don’t belong to Costo but friends call it the $100 store as you can’t leave without paying a few hundred dollars it seems. As they never seem to just purchase what they went in for!!!
Hahahaha! I just adore the $100 store thing. There is a farm stand near me that I call the $40 farm stand. I started going there on my bike with a $20 tucked into my shoe. I’d go in, pick out a chunk of cheese and a baguette — “That’ll be $20!” Then I started having to tuck TWO twenties, one in each sneaker. Farm Stand Inflation!
Oooh I’ve been to Walmart! Although it was only pretty recently when I went on a hiking holiday, and somehow forgot my hiking boots (doh!) I didn’t buy boots there, but we did pick up some easter eggs and fruit. It seemed pretty good to me.
I’ve never been to Costco. I have loads of friends (and colleagues) that rave about it, but we never got around to visiting…
p.s. if the child has a child, maybe your dad will nickname that one Costco (or if it’s a really upmarket baby, he can nickname it Wholefoods…)
Dear Josy — I just love the name Wholefoods for a “really upmarket baby”. Of course, the baby would have to be organic. But then, they are, aren’t they? Did they not have hiking boots in “your” Walmart? I am surprised — they seem to have basically everything. (I love that you got “Easter eggs and fruit”. That is very Walmart.) I’ve only been to Costco once, and that was on a work trip. We were checking out how they stocked their Pantene products (Pantene was an advertising brand I was working on at the time.) They stocked their Pantene in huuuuuge pallets, just like they stock everything else — including my nephew’s chocolate!
They did have hiking boots…but only for men! I guess ladies don’t hike out in the middle of nowhere in Canada!?
Hah! I’ve heard lots of trash talk about Walmart, but this Sexist Thing is a first!
I didn’t mind. We kept driving to a place called Kamloops that had perfect boots for me.
Marc has not stopped making fun out of me for forgetting my shoes for a walking holiday though.
Interesting reading about shopping in other countries. I think Wal-Mart in the UK is possibly Asda… not completely sure..
You are a shopping genius, Marian! I just Googled “Asda”, and found that it is indeed a “subsidiary of Walmart”. Well, well. What do you know? Do they also carry fine cheese-flavored snacks in huuuuuge bags?
Terrific post. So many towns had their small businesses close after Walmart came to town, but the problem is that the town itself supported Walmart, and NOT the crabby guy at the dime store. It’s the retail “circle of life!”
Exactly. I like to think that the town would have rallied ’round the small businesses, except that those business owners — the crabby Dime Store Guy and the overpriced Dress Shop Lady, to name just two — had grown complacent and took their customers for granted. It made me sad when the Western Auto closed, though. Nothing smells as nice inside as a Western Auto store.
It’s always a shame to see a longtime family business go away, hopefully a community can find a balance…a terrific story as always!
Thank you, John. Yes, it was sad to see that Western Auto go. The guy who ran it didn’t have a crabby bone in his body.
I recall that the Walmart manager in our town was considered business royalty, and was regularly quoted in the weekly newspaper when asked her opinion on issues of the day, whether related to retail or not.
Oh my, even though I worked at that paper (!) I didn’t realize that. Wow. I do remember that the Walmart staged fashion shows, and that these were regularly covered in the Banner.
Great read, Alice. I fear the dime store has long since been replaced by a Dollar Store. Yrs. David
Totally true, dear David! Oh, BTW, the other day his Dudeness and I were somewhere Out of The City and passed a Dollar Store. Dude: “Dollar Store? Does that mean everything in there costs a dollar?” I’m guessing he didn’t grow up going to the Dime Store.
I have been to the US a few times and Wal-Mart is always a must. We LOVE it especially when I am a trip with my female friends!! My first trip was in 2001- that fateful summer- and we had moved to the Jersey coast to work the season. Our new landlady took one look at our Irish get ups (jeans, hoodies etc ), packed us all up in the car and brought us to Wal-Mart to buy shorts before we sizzled. My first trip to Wal-Mart!!
Oh my! I love that you were one of the “Irish Kids” who comes to the East Coast to “work the season”. Out Eastern Long Island Way, we see plenty — like at Gosman’s in Montauk — and you Young People are always so eager and friendly. (Besides, we love the accent). So glad you discovered Walmart through your landlady. And also (selfishly) that you discovered my blog. xoxo
I love your blog! I must write about being in New Jersey. I think I would gave much preferred Montauk though. I have been looking at on TV recently. It looks lovely! Am glad you like the Irish abroad!
Ha! A kid named Walmart. Well, we had a Dairy King too, which is so funny. Tho my town (of about 5,000) tried like heck to keep Walmart out, knowing it would kill the German bakery (it did) and the other little stores. After a long fight Walmart finally won. Weird, I know, but to this day, I have never bought anything at Walmart. (I have been.) And I’ve never even been in a Costco. I have been invited by friends, but I abhor grocery shopping, no matter where! I don’t want to make that my Ladies Night. I do miss my food co-op where we used to live and now go to a regular Safeway or the seafood store (we are in MD, after all.) And summer is the best because my hubby grows all the veggies we could handle. We are eyeball deep in dark leafy greens and turnips at the moment!
Girl after my own heart! I absolutely abhor grocery shopping. In the City I get all my groceries delivered. (I order them on a website called Freshdirect) And out in Amagansett I do what I call my “vector”: once a week I get in the car to go to the 1. Dump 2. Farm Stand and 3. Grocery store/post office/wine shop, which share one parking lot. Done! As for Walmart, I hear you. Sooooo unpopular, especially on the East Coast. It didn’t do my hometown main street any good — but by the time it arrived, our downtown was pretty much abandoned anyhoo. The taverns survived — and are thriving!
Ha, yes. The taverns always thrive!