Businesses on Georgia Avenue NW Adjusting to Walmart

Retail stores up and down Georgia Avenue have had to adjust to the presence of Walmart.

Along Georgia Avenue Northwest, near Missouri Avenue, are local District of Columbia stores such as Dollar and Beyond, Brightwood Liquors, No. 1 Beauty Supply and D.C. Medical Supply, Inc., small businesses frequented by residents in the Brightwood community. The store names are not lit up like the big-box Wal-Mart Supercenter adjacent to them. Although many sell the same products and services, this new competitor brings in more problems than business competition.

According to a representative from the Georgia Avenue Business Alliance, "businesses, located across from the Wal-Mart where the parking lane was removed to accommodate access to Wal-Mart's parking lot, are concerned about the impact on their business." Before the Wal-Mart was built this metered parking lane allowed customers of the local businesses quick access to their stores. Now, the customers are no longer allowed to park in the lane in front of the stores.

The 106,000 square-foot store located near Georgia and Missouri avenues has a full grocery selection, fresh produce, a bakery, deli, pharmacy, garden center, photo center and general merchandise. The store employs over 300 associates and offers benefit packages for full-time employees. The store also has underground parking for customers and employees.

Still, some residents and community leaders are raising their voices in opposition to the new store. Ward 4 Thrives has opposed the opening of Wal-Mart stores across the District for several years and led the way for protests of the Georgia Avenue Wal-Mart. Ward 4 Thrives is an organization comprised of residents and business owners of the ward. Their mission is to strengthen community-based governance and community-led development.  Since the Wal-Mart Supercenter store located at 5929 Georgia Ave. NW opened its doors on Dec. 4, 2013, activists have voiced their concerns regarding the negative effects that the business brings to other businesses in the Brightwood neighborhood. At the opening, Ward 4 Thrives organized a protest to raise public awareness of the dangers Wal-Mart poses to their neighborhood.

Ward 4 Thrives spokesperson Willie Baker says, "We have handed out literature there because the first thing they did was bring in a lot of low wage jobs…right now there is a city minimum wage of $8.25 an hour and soon it will be raised, so that will bring up people's salaries which will help." Baker also said that with every new Wal-Mart the city has to pick up a lot of expenses because the workers are entitled to welfare.

An expense that the city has to account for is uncompensated health care. If an employee does not have health insurance and they go to the hospital for services that a family physician would typically treat, the money to cover costs would come from the city.

Baker further subscribes to the notion that traffic is an issue. "If you come down this way between 4 o'clock and 5 o'clock, you notice the traffic on Military Road will bebacked up all the way to 16th Street under that under pass," he said.

Store owners have been affected by the Wal-Mart in a business and personal sense. No. 1 Beauty Supply owner declined to speak about the toll Wal-Mart has had on his business and only said, "No it's okay, I just don't want to talk about it."

Dollar and Beyond store manager Kamran Qureshi says, "As Wal-Mart came we actually gained some new customers. With old ones, we lost some. Parking became quite an issue when Wal-Mart came, they took the parking away so that became an inconvenience to our customers."

Ward 4 Thrives and other activist groups across the nation protest the retail chain for its effect on local community businesses. The "Wal-Mart effect" consists of the effects that Wal-Mart stores have on nearby businesses and the overall community. This effect can be negative as business at local stores decline or positive with the creation of new jobs and community initiatives. Wal-Mart officials were contacted in regards to what community initiatives they will have in place for the northwest area.

Wal-Mart did not respond to an email request for an interview for this story.