Business leaders hoping Wal-Mart a catalyst, not a crusher

Everyone's heard the horror stories -- Wal-Mart kills small businesses.

However, economic development leaders in Craig are optimistic that a new Craig location -- possibly opening next fall -- will boost rather than bottom out sales.

"Some business owners are happy because they think it'll be a draw," said Tim Gibbs, executive director of the Craig/Moffat County Economic Development Partnership. "For some (specialty stores) the increased traffic in town is probably a good thing."

Christina Currie, executive director of the Craig Chamber of Commerce, agreed, saying Wal-Mart can't offer what specialty stores can.

"I see this as an opportunity for existing businesses to hone their edge, whether it be in the uniqueness and quality of their products or in service," Currie said.

Wal-Mart is in the final stages of purchasing property in west Craig. The Supercenter will include about 100,000 square feet of retail shopping space.

The Wal-Mart corporate machine has often been criticized for low-balling prices when opening a new store as an attempt to undercut local competitors. However, more recently, Wal-Mart has been praised in some circles for attracting more shoppers and serving as a catalyst for economic development.

"I believe that Wal-Mart has the potential to improve Craig's business environment and will open the door for more service-industry development, which is much needed," Currie said.

Nadine Daszkiewicz, who's owned The Kitchen Shop at 577 Yampa Ave. in downtown Craig for eight years, said she's looking forward to Wal-Mart's opening.

"I would have to say I'm looking forward to more out-of-town (shoppers) coming to Craig," Daszkiewicz said.

She said that small retailers, and downtown merchants in particular, can avoid being hurt by Wal-Mart's presence by offering different products. Many downtown retailers won't directly compete with Wal-Mart, she said.

"A lot of them don't carry the same merchandise," Daszkiewicz said. "So in that regard we're not in direct competition with them."

She said Wal-Mart would serve as retail linchpin by keeping local dealers in Craig.

"People who want to shop at Wal-Mart already shop there," she said. "They just go somewhere else for it. Now they won't have to go out of town."

Gibbs said the EDP has not taken an official stance on Wal-Mart coming to town.

"We were talking about something we couldn't do anything about, in either direction," Gibbs said.

However, now that the store is committed to a Craig location, Gibbs said it's up to the local business community and small-business owners to adapt.

"I'm hoping that everyone can make the best of the situation, because it's going to happen," he said.

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