I made a pilgrimage to the heartland of Walmart in Bentonville, the same day the conclave of cardinals named a new pope. White smoke rose up from the Sistine Chapel.
Along the highway, an egret or a plastic bag?
I remember John’s Bargain Store on Soundview Avenue, a place with cheap stuff stacked in plastic tubs and wire bins. John’s specialized in paying rent in run-down neighborhoods and in buying overstocked merchandise. The business ended in a scandal.
Sam spun straw into gold. By the end of the sixties, there were 18 stores in Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma.
On my last visit, I walked through 26 aisles of hair gels, pain relief packs, liquid diet and nutrition bars and a field of orange plastic pumpkins in cardboard boxes before I found what I was looking for: pizza. Boxes of original, classic, doubletop, four-meat supreme, three-cheese, firebaked, classic crust, brick oven, crispy thin, California-style, Italian-baked, mega meat, rising crust or everyone’s favorite, cheese stuffed crust.
A paring knife was found inside a birthday cake and the birthday boy almost had his throat cut.
Downtown Bentonville is like a small town lifted from a Disney Amusement Park. I ate breakfast at the Station Café. They have ketchup, but no hot sauce.
The Bentonville behemoth employs 5,000 full-time writers to help dodge negative press. The visitor center reports that as of 2010 there were 8,747 Walmarts. Almost half are international stores. Sam’s business rules of success have been translated into six languages.
In 1992, Sam Walton received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. Sam said, “If we work together, we’ll lower the cost of living for everyone. We’ll give the world an opportunity to see what it’s like to save and have a better life.”
My confession: “I was the one who ate the package of oreo cookies in the break-room and didn’t pay for them. Fire away!”
Crystal Bridges, Museum of American Art in Bentonville is a palace where Norman Rockwell has come home to roost.
On the drive back, several birds waited patiently on the yellow line. Inside my trunk is a plastic bag filled with low-profit margarine, a low-cost spread for rapid turnovers.
Walmart is a big box that never closes.