September 25, 2006
"Big Box Tool Kit"
Posted by Gordon Smith

Today's W$J has a front-page story on Wal-Mart's woes in Boston, and the story refers to a new website called "Big Box Tool Kit" (launched today), which offers information for people who are "working to stop or prevent sprawling big-box development" in their communities. The website is maintained by  the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which was founded in 1974 and is based in Minnesota. Though the Big Box Tool Kit does not distinguish among big-box retailers, the map of communities that are "fighting a big-box project" reveals the heavy focus on Wal-Mart (W), as opposed to Home Depot (H) or Target (T).


The poster child for this sort of activity in central Massachusetts is Arthur P. DiGeronimo Jr.:

Mr. DiGeronimo, 54, is a native of Leominster, a city of 41,000 in the rolling hills of central Massachusetts. Business-savvy and well-spoken, he is a community fixture, having run a grocery-store chain started by his Italian immigrant family until its sale in 2004. He now owns a sound and video equipment company.

Mr. DiGeronimo says Wal-Mart's arrival will hurt the area's nine grocery stores and half-dozen department stores. Driving through the city in his pickup truck, he argues that Wal-Mart won't improve residents' well-being. "It is a question of the quality of life that's become important for a lot of communities," he says.

Another example:

Ms. Harvey and her husband John, both 35, didn't actively oppose the Leominster store plan, even though their house is technically within city limits. The second site, by contrast, is directly across from their home. Ms. Harvey says she used to shop at Wal-Mart when her children were small but stopped after encountering Wal-Mart critiques, such as the documentary, "Is Wal-Mart Good for America?" Wal-Mart "doesn't fit the character of the town," Ms. Harvey says.

I am attempting to steer clear of glib cynicism about the anti-Wal-Mart movement, but it's hard to ignore the opportunistic use of anti-Wal-Mart rhetoric by a potential competitor and a NIMBY.

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