No Warm Greeting For Wal-Mart At Community Meeting

UPDATED 04/12/11 6:11 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – A proposed Wal-Mart in the East Lakeview neighborhood received a not-so-warm welcome Monday night, even though representatives of the mega-retailer characterized the project as a downsized store that would sell mostly groceries.

The big box chain tried to sell its plan for a “Neighborhood Market” store in the Broadway at Surf retail complex, located in the 2800 block of North Broadway. The possibility of a Wal-Mart has generated intense debate among local residents and merchants who are leery of the chain and its potential impact on local independent businesses.

Wal-Mart tried to allay fears by saying the area needs a grocery store. The store it would build would be one-fifth the size of a typical Wal-Mart and would be limited to food items, produce, beauty products and pharmacy items.

The store would also sell “limited” general merchandise, such as computer printer paper and other items as neighbors saw fit, but would not sell items such as electronics, apparel, home furnishings and hardware as would be seen in a larger Wal-Mart Supercenter, Wal-Mart spokesman John Bisio said.

“This is one Wal-Mart store certainly of a different size and scope,” Bisio told a large crowd at the Wellington Avenue Church, 615 W. Wellington Ave.

Bisio said the store would create 75 to 100 new jobs, and would engage the community to identify local organizations and causes to support, which he said would likely include jobs and skills training, environmental concerns, and sustainability.

For the first time, Wal-Mart presented a layout for the planned store. It would take over two existing storefronts in the 110,000 square-foot retail complex, which is on the west side of Broadway from Surf Street south to the building that houses a soon-to-be-shuttered Borders bookstore.

The blueprint for the Wal-Mart store shows one area set aside for fresh produce and refrigerator cases for dairy and frozen items, and another area for dry goods and non-food products, as well as a pharmacy.

The Wal-Mart store would occupy a vacant storefront where a PetSmart closed last year, but would also displace an existing store – the Cost Plus World Market at 2844 N. Broadway, which has been in business since the Broadway at Surf opened in 1997.

Dick Spinell, principal of building property manager Mid-America Real Estate Group, said if plans for the Wal-Mart went ahead, World Market would have to close its location in the building. While the World Market store draws crowds for weekend wine tastings and other events, Spinell said the store has been struggling and is “likely to go away regardless of what we do here.”

More than 150 people attended the meeting. Most attendees wore buttons protesting the arrival of Wal-Mart, and after Bisio spoke, dozens of people lined up to voice their opposition to Wal-Mart moving into the neighborhood.

“My biggest concern is that this doesn’t end with cheap groceries,” one skeptic said at Monday’s public meeting. “I see a lot of empty real estate nearby. I think it would be very easy for the product line to be expanded well beyond groceries, to have a serious impact on our local merchants and destroy our budding urban renewal.”

Mark Thomas, owner of the Alley alternative apparel store and several other businesses at Clark Street and Belmont Avenue, took Wal-Mart to task for a report in Crain’s Chicago Business this week that said the contractor that built the Wal-Mart at North and Kilpatrick avenues on the West Side had gone bankrupt. Thomas also said a Wal-Mart would adversely affect the character of the community.

“You folks have a responsibility here, and that is if you are not going to consider how you shop, Lakeview is going to look like Woodfield Mall,” Thomas told the crowd.

Others emphasized that unlike other communities that Wal-Mart has said it plans to enter in the city, East Lakeview is not a “food desert.” Neighbor Jill Zenoff rattled off a list of nearby grocery stores, among them The Market Place, 521 W. Diversey Pkwy.; Milk and More, 702 W. Diversey Pkwy.; and a Trader Joe’s that is soon to open at 667 W. Diversey Pkwy.

Bisio responded that while food deserts have been an emphasis for Wal-Mart, “we do have an obligation to other parts of Chicago,” and a store at the Broadway at Surf would be the best option for neighbors in the immediate vicinity.

Still others expressed concern that Wal-Mart would drive out small businesses and cost the neighborhood jobs, wondered if Wal-Mart would commit to support for the area’s large gay and lesbian community, and criticized the retailer for not offering a “living wage” and resisting attempts by workers to unionize.

Bisio said the starting wage of $8.75 per hour would only be for workers with “zero” experience, who would constitute a minority. He also claimed that Wal-Mart workers do not need union representation because “they don’t need to pay somebody dues to get a competitive wage.”

Many neighbors did not hesitate to say they do not want Wal-Mart in the neighborhood at all. Neighbor Dan Crowe called on Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), who was present at the meeting, to “do everything practically possible and legally possible to prevent this scourge.”

The Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce has also come out against the proposed Wal-Mart, over concerns that it would drive the many small merchants in the neighborhood out of business. At the meeting, chamber executive director Maureen Martino said small merchants constitute 80 percent of the businesses in East Lakeview, and said “they built this community 30 years ago when nobody wanted to live here.”

Martino said Wal-Mart had not offered research to show an East Lakeview store would be successful, or the impact it would have on small businesses.

A couple of people spoke in support of Wal-Mart, including a man who said the community should “bring Wal-Mart in” to provide jobs and affordable prices to the low-income residents of Lakeview. But only a few people clapped after the supporters’ comments, while many Wal-Mart opponents generated thunderous applause at the meeting.

As talk has heated up in recent weeks, signs reading “Wal-Mart: Not in My Neighborhood” – showing a frowning Wal-Mart smiley icon — have been posted in the doors of some businesses in the area.

Before the meeting Monday, restaurant owner Sam Giarratano said 80 percent of his customers are against a neighborhood Wal-Mart.

“It’s upsetting,” he told CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov. “What we’re looking at is a track record of what Wal-Mart represents.”

He and other business leaders say Wal-Mart’s record includes decimating small businesses located around the big box store.

Tunney, through a spokesman, said the elected leader wants to weigh community feedback before deciding whether to back Wal-Mart. He only spoke at the Monday evening meeting to outline the proposal and introduce Bisio and the Wal-Mart representatives.

CBS 2’s Mike Parker and Web Producer Adam Harrington contributed to this report.

  • hughwynn

    I hope walmart doesnt go in tunneys ward. the people in that ward are nuts for not wanting walmart. they have the best products at the best price. all the people in tunneys ward are doing are penalizing themselves because they think it hurts local business. well guess what people . walmart will probably hire about 100 people for the store, most from the northside. you people dont have a clue.

    • retphxfire

      Walmarts stores are always dirty, inside AND out. For some reason kids go wild in their stores, who otherwise behave at other stores; walmart doesn’t allow its employees to stop rampaging kids. I avoid wm like the plague, but there is one first aid product can’t get anywhere else and when I’m in the store I have to watch out for out-of-control kids crashing into shoppers. BTW, wm prices aren’t the great, check the facts. Also, if you like to send all your money to China and don’t mind the richest corporation in the world treating employess like indentured servants go ahead and shop there, but you aren’t helping your neighborhood. NO TO WALMART.

    • jeremy

      A Walmart would probably be more efficient, effective, and beneficial in a low income area

      • ron jaffers

        have a REPLY for u, Exactly WHAT is in your food that got U so JADED??? Hell NO to WM in Lakeview!!!

    • Jay Bee

      You don’t have a clue, hughwynn, there is a Dominicks going up TWO BLOCKS away from where Wal-Mart wants to go and that’s been in the works for a long time. There’s the Treasure Island supermarket , a Jewel and Whole Foods right in the neighborhood, too. As for Wal-Mart hiring people, how about you get a job at Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart jobs cost the taxpayers money! They are so cheap, most their workers need food stamps and Medicaid. I would be surprised if anybody but a manager at Wal-Mart could afford New Town rent! Get a clue, hughwynn, and try talking about stuff you know. I promise not to talk about stuff I don’t have a clue about in your neighborhood. Except to say, why don’t you get Wal-Mart over there?

      • PJ

        Only hippies are against that Walmart opening up. Treasure Island and Jewel are way north of where the proposed walmart is going.

        The arguments against it seem like they were conceived in a 6th grade classroom. Jewel has been ripping people off long enough.

        I wouldn’t mine a Meijer going up instead.

      • karl

        PJ is right. The Jewel and Whole Foods are a mile from the proposed site and the Treasure Island is 3/4 mile. For people who walk to their stores, that is not close.

        I haven’t noticed if Dominick’s has actually started construction or just still has a sign up. Google Earth still shows no activity on the site. Their old store has been gone for years. Unless construction is ongoing, I wouldn’t count on that “future” store. But even if it were open, that would mean only one supermarket within walking distance so no real competition. Unless you are a Safeway shareholder, that is not a good thing.

    • Catfish

      Wal-Mart has a record of what it does to local business and it’s not good. If you think the best products are the cheap junk they sell you from China, then you buy that trash. Sure they may hire a 100 people for the store, but how may will be full time? Only a few, the rest only part time getting at most 32 hours a week. hughwynn—You don’t have a clue of what Wal-Mart does do local business.. I live in down state Illinois and have seen first hand what happens when they move into town. You let them get a foot in the door and they will take over.

      • rray

        hey 90 percent of us goods are china made so get off that! the retailers are making a killing off their neighbors, they just don’t want to lose the profit they are making off their JUNK! and in this economy any job is a blessing and lower prices are the way to go! so most local business are out for their self, and thier 50% markup! walmart donates to local causes too! I live in a town where there is a walmart and they have lower prices for the same stuff the locals do so most people go for the lower prices get used to it !

      • Jason

        What does it do to local businesses?! Does the giant Wal-Mart monster come and eat them? Of course not! What happens is people realize that not only can they get most of their shopping done in one store, they can usually do it for about 15% cheaper than they would if they shopped at the small businesses. So, the consumer just stops going to the small businesses. Small business means fewer customers. Fewer customers means less revenue. Less revenue means higher prices. Higher prices means you’re subject to defeat at the hands of any store (big or small) that offers the same product at a discounted rate. It isn’t the store. It’s that people actually shop there.

    • Kate Walsh

      best products – really? Consider how they drove Huffy Bicycle and Levi Strauss to the wall with their demands for cuts, cuts and more cuts to cost so the Arkansas crowd could have more and more profit. Yes, we need jobs. But we do not need WalMart jobs. Their whole orientation is to growth and profit; not for the communities they invade, but for themselves. and, of course, to support their right-wing pals. No to WalMart in Chicago. Yes to good jobs, small business strength and community solidarity in Chicago!

      • Paul

        No one forced Levi Struss or Huffy to sell to Walmart! Levis have always been way overpriced anyhow! Walmar pals right wing??? That’s funny!

    • ron jaffers

      Looks like U do not have a clue, hugh…WM is BLIGHT for Chicago, nuff said!

      • tom

        chicago itself is a blight

    • No More Walmarts

      Walmart sucks and so does it’s clientele.

    • Go figure

      Walmart’s pedal Chinese made junk, uproot small businesses and replace them with minimum wage drones with no hope for a future. The jobs it creates are probably less than the jobs lost, and definitely pay less. It’s a turd that can only be polished for so long.

    • Mary Ann

      ummmm….you don’t have a clue – WalMart comes into our towns (including mine) does NOT pay good wages, and most people do not even get health insurance because WalMart keeps many of their employees part time. When I lived in Florida, about 70-80% of WalMart employees were on WELFARE!! Plus, all of WalMart’s goods are from CHINA, meaning Americans are losing jobs!!

  • Y Samarah

    I agree with the opposition to WalMart in the inner city. In particular in areas where reliance on the specialty stores and small business adds to the neighborhood charm. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about please read about small town America where WalMart set up shop on the outskirts and killed main street shops. Most became ghost towns. This could have been tolerable if WalMart made an effort to support a made in the USA effort. But carefully read the label, you’ll find made in China on the majority of the products on its shelves. Not only did they put out the local businesses out of business they outsourced our jobs to China while they’re at it.

    • Paul

      Take a look at the labels on ANY store shelves! Walmart sells the SAME products made in the SAME places that just about every other sore sells. Walmart doesn’t manufacture a thing, they buy it from manufacturers just the same as any other store. Name ONE major store that DOESN’T get any products from outside the USA.

      • Beth

        Yes, but Walmart has set up its entire supply chain in China, now working as a multinational. This is a negative for American jobs and workers.

      • Paul

        Walmart’s supply chain is the same as any other large chain! Why does everyone seem to think that they invented offshore procurements?

        Also, I didn’t know that all the American produced brands that Walmart sells were somehow co-produced in China ONLY for Walmart. For instance, are you telling me that Walmart sells Pennzoil from China? Lays or Planters products from China? etc?

  • jeff

    STFU, hughwynn

  • karl

    So Walmart is proposing a Neighborhood Market grocery store for East Lakeview. The only grocery stores in this area I can think of are the Treasure Island about 3/4 miles north and a Dominick’s site about 1/4 mile north. The last time I checkked, the old Dominick’s had been torn down some years back and the new store hadn’t started construction. So Walmart is probably correct that the area needs a supermarket. Sorry I missed the meeting notice because I would have come and been in favor of the store.

    • Kate Walsh

      Domiinick’s – a Union store with living wage jobs is re-building in the area. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods are not that far away. Take a walk with your grocery cart, ride the bus, and be a happy shopper in the more ethical stores all around our area. WalMart is an unethical, greedy corporation that is out to destroy any competition they can tag. It is a fantasy to think they are a good option for our city.

      • Paul

        Have you actually ever been in a Neighborhood Market? Do you actually know what you are talking about? We had one in our neighborhood because the local Albetsons was such a dump that no one would go in there. The Walmart Neighborhood Market was a welcome relief!

  • lynnoo

    Karl, There are 4 grocery stores; Treasure Island, Jewel, Whole Foods and the new Trader Joes opening in a few weeks. Plus walgreens and CVS sell food items. Wal-Mart doesn’t need to be here. They are saying groceries to get their foot in the neighborhood but my guess is they intend to change that when they see the market is saturated and start undercutting the small shops that make Lakeview what it is.

  • Lyn

    Let’s not forget the Lincoln Park Market 3 blocks away, at 2500 N Clark St.

  • Katydid

    new Trader Joe’s where?

  • Lynnoo

    On Diversey, south side, just west of Clark. It might be the old Barnes and Nobel site. Two floors, parking set to open in a few weeks!!!! YEAH!!!

    • katydid


  • robert hansen

    I agree.fight off monopolies. its always a band aid to economies and it blows up the future. I hope the citizens scream loud . sometimes the politicians are deaf.



  • Lynnoo

    That’s the thing!! Little Village is screaming for a Wal-Mart. They need to go there, not here. Go where it’s really needed. Not where it’s going to add to traffic concerns. SALVN was already upset about the hospital’s impact on traffic and THAT was a hospital. Wal-mart needs to go to another part of the city. It makes no sense. That’s why what they propose shouldn’t be believed. They couldn’t even tell the truth about the square footage! Then they went from making a “covanent” with the community to an “agreement.” When pressed they dumbed up. It’s a bad, bad, bad thing for the community.

  • Byron

    It has been proven that Wal-Mart does not add jobs to the local economy. Wal-Mart adds 1 job for job that is destroyed due to a supermarket closing nearby. One earlier study showed that each Wal-Mart worker replaces about 1.4 non-Wal-Mart retail workers. The group Retail Forward concluded in 2003 that “for every Wal-Mart supercenter that opens in the next five years, two supermarkets will close their doors.” Plus, their corporate culture is discriminatory against minorities and women.

    • Paul

      That report is only for the super Walmart stores, not the Neighborhood Markets. Try again.

  • MaDeInChInA

    Too late folks!
    Made in China is here to stay.
    Wake up and smell the coffee.

    Made In China ! Yeah !!!!!!!!!!!!

    God Bless China !!!!!

  • Complain Complain Complain

    It is so funny how everyone who is voting against Wal-Mart are the first people in Wal-Mart to buy a sale item or something with a cheaper price than there regular shopping store. I wish I was rich like these other people to where I can go someplace to buy something at a higher price than go to Wal-mart for the exact same item for cheaper. Also, if someone in your family or a friend shops at Wal-Mart do you think different of them?

    And before you ask, yes I have a Wal-Mart in my neighborhood. And yes I shop there.

    • Pablo

      You are a sack of chit!

    • Pedro for president

      We should bury you in a Walmart coffin!

    • Amanda

      Who’s complaining and running into a Walmart for deals? You obviously aren’t from this area of Chicago so you should STFU and stay in Naperville where you belong!

  • Ken Allen Nelson

    if you dont want to go to wal-mart – then stick with your grocery pals – simple as that! who says you HAVE to shop at Wal-mart? If you dont want it there, prove to your community you can still shop where you always shopped at. Turn your stupid arguments around and see what you can do to prove the big Mon-ster is wrong in your community!! Simple as that.

    • Complain Complain Complain


    • Not in my neigborhood

      Walmart ruins local businesses, period!!! Only fools don’t pay attention to the big picture of things.

  • Complain Complain Complain

    Agree …

    • Cookie party

      When you agree with someone who has already stated something it’s agreed! I guess Walmart hasn’t taught you that!

  • Roger Berry

    Wal-MArt will come. They will just pay off the politicians, and make the elected jerks say it’s for jobs. They will win. Nothing you people can do. We are weak, the corporation has all our elected officials in their pocket. We elected a mayor that’s a friend to big corps like that.

    Funny thing is, the gentrification in the city is what is bringing these corps in. You people are the magnet. re their even any Chicagoans that live in lakeview? I mean ones that were born an raised in the city? Or are all the people complaining the same people that pushed their way into the neighborhood sky rocketing the real estate cost, penalizing the original poor residents with code violations and parking tickets until the original neighborhood moved out.

    Haha. Suckers I hope wal mart destroys all your little shops of airheads. I rather have a walmart than a lakeview community.

    • Amanda

      I hope you fall and break your hip from all that Chinese produced vitamin K milk you’ve been buying from Walmart. BTW, anyone who loves Walmart has a sister for a momma! Stay in Naperville, loser!

  • Keith C

    If they dont want a Walmart in ‘uppity” Lakeview (aint no low income families in that part of town), let them come to Englewood, South Shore or Roseland where folks would LOVE to work and have a store that will save them some money. Most who are hesitatnt are the businesses who realize that profit margin they are used to having get dessimated by Walmart. Not my problem – that business dont cut me no deal when my hours at work is short and I have to stretch my dollar…..Come to the hood Walmart where u are welcome……..

    • Lynnoo

      THAT’S the issue!!!! They should go where there is more of a NEED not here. Though there is no need to call it “uppity Lakeview” as much of the opposition raised here is that Wal-Mart doesn’t pay a living wage to the people who need a job to support their families.

  • Lynnoo

    PJ; the other stores are not “way north”. The Trader Joes is going in on Diversey and there is another Treasure Island on Clark south of Diversey as well. This will impact the whole area not just the two blocks surrounding it.

    Roger; I am a life-long Chicagoan who spent over 20 years in Pilson and on Taylor Street before it was cool to live there. I left there in part because the “malling” of the area destoyed the neighborhood. Do you know where Lakeview is? What “little shops of airheads” are you talking about? Or do you just want to rage insults as opposed to having an educated opinion? What neighborhood do you live in? Are you even in the city?

  • Dan

    What a bunch of sad egoists and discriminators are posting here. Not in MY neighborhood, not in tte inner city, why don’t you go there! Walmar pays way above minimum wage at their lowest starting salary and affords a benefits package to the employee as well. Even IF Walmart expanded, I don’t think “The Alley” would be threatened, apples & oranges. You are getting killed with grocery prices in that area including when that Trade Joes opens, they are not reasonable!! Isn’t Lakeview one of the neighborhoods thht scream for acceptance? What hypocrites!!!!

    • Pablo

      Trader Joe’s has reasonable prices, fool!

  • Lynnoo

    Dan, Wal-Mart pays 50 cents above minimum wage to it’s starting employees; so said Wal-Mart’s PR guy at last night’s meeting when asked by a young man how much he would be paid if hired. Even then Mr. PR had to be pressed for a number by the crowd and wouldn’t give a numerical time frame about 401k, insurance and the $13+/hr rate he claimed. What Mr. PR DID claim is that Lakeview didn’t have grocery store choices; not true. If they really want to help Chicago they should go where they are wanted and there is more of a need. There are plenty of places in the city where they could put up a full size store and be welcome and not threaten the small business owner.

  • Lynnoo

    Working Mother Magazine just named the top 12 hourly wage companies. McDonalds made the cut but not Wal-Mart.

  • Edwards Elle

    Walmart gives wonderful prices for products that otherwise will cost us more in other stores. So, let us keep the store coming to our neighborhood. Besides, we do not have to drive so far to buy a gallon of milk or a couple of crunchies.
    Employees are well paid and well trained. They are the signature of the store and we love each and every store there is.
    Let them come and we will patronize because therir products are so good and affordable for everyone who lives in this ward.
    Thanks for coming.

  • Sam

    Why are people so content in overpaying for their groceries to support the “Decent Wage” (union) employees? Does the union cashier make the trip through the check out faster or more enjoyable? NO! I shop at Butera’s and Tony’s Finer Foods and roll out of the store with an overflowing shopping cart for less than a $100. I am amazed by the chumps that just grab stuff off the shelves at Jewel and Dominicks and don’t even realize how bad their getting the shaft. pretty bad when they price deli meet by the 1/2 lb to give people the illusion it’s reasonable. Walmart is cheaper because they pay a cashier what they are worth and are extremly organized. I don’t shop at Walmart but do get annoyed by all the anti Walmart posts here. Let them open, if the store does not belong there it will fail. If people in the area don’t shop there they will lose money. Too may people posting that think they are above everyone else!

  • Lynnoo

    Sam: Dominicks, Trader Joes, Jewel, etc don’t have union employees. People are allowed a living wage. How would you like to support a family on $8.50/hr for a 32 hour week so the company wouldn’t have to give you insurance? Also, the fear is if the grocery store they claim they are only going to open fails they will expand into the rest of the building and make it a big Wal-Mart. I don’t know where you live but this community cannot absorb that kind of impact and not have it negatively impact it.

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