The Coastal Star

Merchants: Some wary, some welcome Walmart

Local merchants talk about Walmart



By Dianna Smith


Small business owners are wondering if their livelihood will improve or disappear once Walmart opens its doors next year.


While Boynton Beach is confident the Walmart is what’s best for Boynton Beach, city officials say they’re not trying to support Walmart at the expense of the
town’s small businesses.


“We fund our small businesses. We subsidize them,” said Lisa Bright, executive director of the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency. “I would hate for
anybody to lose their business in this economy.”


But some business owners worry that could happen.


LaRonda Denkler is co-owner of Vince Canning Shoes on Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach, about two miles from where the Walmart will be built at Federal Highway and
Gulfstream Boulevard. Though Denkler said she doesn’t consider the store as
competition, she does believe it will steal potential customers from her store
and others on Atlantic Avenue.


“I’ll miss out on the opportunity of foot traffic, of a customer happening to see something she likes (at my store),” said Denkler, whose store has been in
business 58 years. “Walmart sucks money out of our local economy.”


While some believe the Walmart will hurt their business, others believe it could help them.


“I kind of think that because the traffic will increase on Federal Highway, I’ll get more visibility,” said Debbie Brookes, owner of Beachcomber Arts on South
Federal Highway in Boynton Beach. But she also said she’s disappointed in the
city because she doesn’t believe a Walmart belongs in a comfy small town like
Boynton Beach.


This Walmart will be 94,000 square feet, less than half the size of the Walmart along Old Boynton Road. The majority of this store will focus on groceries and
the rest on general merchandise.


Walmart officials have guaranteed 150 full-time jobs and Bright said there’s a possibility for another 100 part-time jobs.


Bright promises that the building won’t look like a typical Walmart. It will look more like the Publix in West Palm Beach’s City Place — attractive architecture that
will catch the eyes of passersby. It will replace an empty shopping plaza once
home to a strip club and some are applauding the plan because it will eliminate
the blight.


But not everyone wants to see it replaced with a big box store.


Randy Rau of Rau’s Decorating Center on Ocean Avenue in Boynton Beach, said he would like to see a high-end store there that would attract customers who shop at his
store, such as designers.


Still, Rau admits, the Walmart will bring life to the area.


“Anything’s better then that old ripped up sleazy mall that nobody’s in,” Rau said.


Cathy Patterson of Natural Forest Patio said though her business is nearby, she doesn’t feel threatened by Walmart because she believes her customers will
remain loyal. The business, on South Federal Highway in Boynton Beach, has been
there for 33 years.


“I’m not a big fan of Walmart because of what it typically does to the mom and pop businesses,” Patterson said. “But I think the area it’s going into is so run
down and dark at night. It might brighten things up a little down there.”


Residents living nearby are already complaining about potential crime they believe the 24-hour Walmart will bring. But Kevin Scully, owner of Scully’s Restaurant, also
on South Federal Highway in Boynton Beach, doesn’t believe there will be any
crime. He said the Walmart will
bring mostly positive changes, such as jobs and potential customers to the
area.


“I couldn’t be more thrilled that Walmart is sticking their neck out trying something down there,” Scully said. “Walmart is going to spend a lot of money
making it a beautiful, safe shopping environment.”

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