Rumor: Walmart Eyeing Hertel/Elmwood Corner

Walmart, which has been rumored to be looking for a North Buffalo location for years, apparently is close to buying properties at the northwest corner of Hertel and Elmwood avenues for a new store.  A commercial real estate insider says the retail giant is said to be buying a string of properties “from the donut shop to the Home Depot plaza.”  The brownfield site is across from an LA Fitness that Benderson Development is building.

In the United States, Walmart employs more than 1.4 million people in Supercenters, Walmart Discount Stores, Neighborhood Markets, Walmart Express Stores and Sam’s Clubs.  There are 114 Walmart and Sam’s Clubs stores in New York, none within the City of Buffalo.  Walmart operates more than 10,000 retail units under 69 banners in 27 countries.

walmartnb.JPG

About the author  ⁄ buffalorising

107 comments
whatever
whatever

I think pretty much we're at an impasse so I'll just make a general point.

Many of those things are done by other retailers too and no doubt were done even before Walmart became huge. For example, having a few low priced items at a time to attract shoppers who they hope once in the store also buy other stuff instead of at other stores. I'd never heard it called a 'siphon', but you can call it that. The specialty retailers can do the same however - if some customers happen to stop at say Terrapin before going to Walmart they might make impulse purchases at the former and have less to spend at the latter.

Retail has always been a very competitive industry. Actually most industries are, but with retail is in the public eye so much.

If Walmart had never existed, some other co would be the market leader and be thus be under the microscope - like Microsoft for a long time was/is in software, and so on.

It isn't unusual for any industry's leader to dominate in size far above 2nd and 3rd place for a while, so if Walmart had never happened then Target or Sears or whoever would have the same opportunities to flex muscles as Walmart does now. It's likely there'd be similar kinds of criticisms of whoever is #1 at this point in history (with today's technology, China, etc). The management 'talent' who Walmart has hired to innovate the practices which some don't like would have instead been hired by Target, etc and put many of the same ideas in place.

davvid
davvid

I am reading today that Walmart plans to start denying workers health insurance if their hours drop below 30hrs. Walmart is essentially shifting the burden of workers who do not make enough to afford healthcare over to the federal gov't and taxpayers.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/01/walmart-health-care-policy-medicaid-obamacare_n_2220152.html

"Labor and health care experts portrayed Walmart’s decision to exclude workers from its medical plans as an attempt to limit costs while taking advantage of the national health care reform known as Obamacare...

“Walmart likely thought it didn’t need to offer this part-time coverage anymore with Obamacare,” said Nelson Lichtenstein, director of the Center for the Study of Work, Labor and Democracy at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “This is another example of a tremendous government subsidy to Walmart via its workers.”

In pursuing lower health care costs, Walmart is following the same course as many other large employers. But given its unrivaled scale, Walmart’s policies tend to influence American working conditions more broadly."

davvid
davvid

I thought Panera was going where Blockbuster is in Elmwood.

BPS_Rising
BPS_Rising

P.S. This is what happens when someone demands an exorbitant price for a piece of property. The only fish in town that can afford it is Walmart. If Walmart goes in, I'm betting on a Panera + Chipotle on the SW corner. I noticed a Panera billboard on Amherst & Elmwood - seems out of place when the nearest one is quite a bit North on Sheridan. Maybe they're testing the waters?

BPS_Rising
BPS_Rising

If Walmart must come into Buffalo, I wish they'd tear down the Kmart and build there. I live in the area, and while I'd prefer not to see Walmart move into my neighborhood, I realize such things are out of my control. Given that, I'd welcome other development that Walmart could bring to the area. Say, a new permanent North Buffalo library? Not in a Kmart strip mall? A Trader Joe's on the SW corner of Hertel & Delaware? I hope the small businesses in the area benefit from this - like The Kitchen Table, just across the street, a small restaurant with yummy, inexpensive food, and the hardest working owner you'll find. There are 3 "adult" toy/video shops near that corner - I'd take a Walmart over these stores.

davvid
davvid

Thanks for the thoughtful response.

Walmart uses the very low prices on some products to draw customers into the store only for them to make other regular-priced purchases out of convenience or whatever impulse. So a dozen eggs or a case of beer may be cheaper elsewhere but it may not be worth a customer's time to travel to another store. When Walmart as one-stop shopping destination becomes part of a customers shopping habit it could certainly hurt any small business in the immediate area, even specialty shops like Terrapin Station. Terrapin loses if its potential customer spends his or her available cash or time at Walmart before even getting to Terrapin. Walmart is simply a siphon. Walmart drinks Terrapin's milkshake. And that siphoning out of local dollars could affect the economy in ways that are not always clear and direct.

We really shouldn't even lump Walmart in with smaller big box stores because its enormous size as a store and a system is unique. Secondly Walmart is much more aggressive about being a one-top shopping destination. Most customers wouldn't expect to get their haircut at Wegmans, or buy an outfit at Tops, or a TV at home depot.

I asked you before about specific "higher priced" products or services because I am very suspicious of the idea that consumers are saving money because of Walmart. There is a kind of conservative notion out there, which I disagree with, that Walmart shoppers are simply being rational and always choosing the cheapest prices. My guess is that there is very little price difference between walmart and local stores on many basic items.

On the labor/wage issue, I think Walmart gets crapped on the most because it is by far the biggest offender. Walmart is operating at a scale all its own and it is the primary force on the global stage that is driving down wages everywhere it does business and forcing companies to move to China in order to compete. There have also been some high profile accusations of limiting advancement and retaliation against worker trying to organize.

I do agree with you that there should be more pressure on Target and other retailers in the US to raise wages. As you probably know there is a perception that retail work is primarily for high school or college students and that it isn't like a "real" job.

TheRepatformerlyknownasosirisascending
TheRepatformerlyknownasosirisascending

We're looking really hard at a couple of spots in Grant/Ferry and Black Rock. I've been meaning to pick your brain about your 'hood actually. We're pretty well settled into the house now, so my main focus is trying to get a location under contract as soon after the new year as possible. I'll send you an e-mail.

whatever
whatever

You also mentioned worker treatment.

Why is Walmart is criticized for wages massively more than Target which as of 2011 pays over 7% less on average?

According to The Atlantic....

http://cdn.theatlantic.com/static/mt/assets/business/IBISWorld_Big_Box_Retail.PNG

as of 2011 these were the average hourly wages, lowest-to-highest

Kohls $8.02, Target $8.13, Walmart $8.81, Best Buy $9.67, Home Depot $11.77

(some others are in that chart too)

From that article

"Walmart...says it pays full time sales associates $11.75 an hour on average. But independent analysis peg the figure much lower, closer to $9.

According to IBISWorld, that puts it a bit behind companies like Home Depot and Lowes, but ahead of its nearest competitor, Target, which has managed to put a more fashionable face on the same abysmal pay for its workers."

Might the reason be that Target is preferred over Walmart for shopping by a larger portion of progressives - so they're more hesitant to criticize Target's wages even if lower than Walmart's?

Just asking. I don't know what the reason is.

And we don't know what wages or other treatment issues are at small local stores.

From the govt side of things, the minimum wage (& other labor laws) should apply the same to all businesses regardless of type or size.

If a political majority wants the min wage to be raised, that's much more reasonable than to single out Walmart or even the retail industry - especially when Target is by comparison immune from the same criticism.

From consumer side, people can consider worker wages when deciding. If they want to buy something at Home Depot or Best Buy instead of Walmart or Target with motivation being that HD or BB pays workers more - that's fine. Or if they want to still buy from small/local whenever possible, they can do that too.

whatever
whatever

You raised two issues there. I'll reply in separate comments.

davvid>"What are these products or services that small business are charging outrageous prices for?"

The subjective description 'outrageous' is a word you brought up.

What I wrote said mostly and higher:

"The ship has long sailed for local stores trying to sell mostly the same products as chains but at higher prices. Even if Walmart isn't here, they still buy that stuff at Target, Big Lots, Dollar General, Wegmans, etc"

As to what the products are, they can be anything you and SBZ had in mind when your comments referred to small local businesseses in this comment

SBZ>"I don't think Buffalo needs a Wal-Mart at all. All it does is hurt small local retailers."

...and this one

davvid>"obliterating local small business economies".

So if you'd like, you two can tell me what kinds of products are sold at stores you had in mind regarding Buffalo/Elmwood-Hertel who'd be hurt or obliterated.

I could think of examples of small local stores with higher prices than national chains for the same products, but don't know if they'd be what you guys were thinking of. Same concept however.

Quick examples -

Elmwood's 24 Hour We-Never-Close store sells things at much higher prices than national chains (Target, Walmart, Wegmans, Big Lots, etc).

I don't think that one will be hurt Walmart because they've survived all the other national chains for so long. The added value they offer is a convenient location.

But maybe many years ago there were additional similar small local stores like that along Elmwood and the number of them have decreased.

On Hertel, wasn't there a greeting card store where Spot Coffee is now? Maybe that one couldn't successfully compete on price and convenience with big chains that sell cards in addition to many other products.

And maybe the local food market that was where Walgreens now is on Hertel is another example which couldn't compete on price and selection after Wegmans came along. Dash's survived, but maybe Wegmans resulted in decreasing the # of smaller local groceries in North Buff. All speculation, but there's some examples.

Did Hertel used to have a hardware store that didn't survive for very long after Home Depot's arrival? If so, that could be another.

On the other hand, stores selling more unique products can do fine. I mentioned Elmwood's stores for vinegar and custom t-shirts, and there's the Village specialty beer store. The cupcake store is another, along with the Poster Art store, Talking Leaves books, … on and on.

Those have added value by offering products & expertise the big chains don't.

Hertel examples -

Room furniture (and quite a few furniture/furnishing stores), Terrapin Station, Virgil tobacco, many ethnic specialty food stores on Hertel, ...

DOC
DOC

Look at the post from "buffaloroam" where he/she says "whenever I'm back in Buffalo with someone new I enjoy showing them that site." Isn't that nice: bringing new people to an underdeveloped area of Buffalo and show them something to laugh at. We don't need that kind of public relations. I mean seriously. Where do you live now? Let me guess: Chicago, LA, Miami, Tampa, Atlanta, New York, DC, or some other World Class city?

bung
bung

In ten or twelve years from now you will be reading on Buffalo Rising. Developer Rocco Termini is planning on buying The former Wal-Mart building on Elmwood near Hertel. It will be a mix of residential plus commercial space and utilize historic preservation tax credits. If Wal-mart is still in that location twelve years from now, that would be historic!

bung
bung

I thought Tim Hortons bought the former Dickie's Donuts location last summer?

rpm40
rpm40

For what purpose?

davvid
davvid

What specific products are you talking about? What are these products or services that small business are charging outrageous prices for?

The last time I shopped at Walmart was a long time ago and it was because I was in a small North Carolina town and it had the only open barbershop. And that haircut cost more than I would have paid my local barber. Every product that I need can be purchased at a local store for a reasonable price. Its very easy to avoid these big box discount stores. In most cities there are even mom and pop 99cent stores where you can buy your cheap imports at a local level if you want. Wegmans is a slightly different case than Walmart, Big Lots etc. because Wegmans offers premium and local products and has a good record with treating workers. All big box stores are not the same.

whatever
whatever

Absolutely… what No Illusions said.

The ship has long sailed for local stores trying to sell mostly the same products as chains but at higher prices. Even if Walmart isn't here, they still buy that stuff at Target, Big Lots, Dollar General, Wegmans, etc…..

But if they sell something more unique, they can do fine.

Elmwoodish examples are the micro beer store, vinegar store, custom t-shirt store, etc., etc.

No_Illusions
No_Illusions

If you look at what the shops in Elmwood, or in North Buffalo offer, you find that they sell many things you cannot find at Walmart. That alone might protect the local businesses. K-mart, however might find itself in trouble.

No_Illusions
No_Illusions

Which is kind of funny, something like American Appearal would show that their is actual interest in Buffalo from outside the region. It would be a great sign of the health of the Elmwood and Hertel Strips.

Also I think a few corperate chains mixed in with the local ones might attract people from the Galleria Mall to Elmwood and North Buffalo. Done smartly it could be a good thing for local businesses. However of course we should not go overboard, and its a good thing that the Elmwood Village Association and the Hertel Business Association exist to properly plan and learn from the mistakes of other cities which grew to fast to protect small business.

No_Illusions
No_Illusions

Yeah, but where are the other solutions? At least this is a private developer. Until someone else comes up with a solution for that intersection (and more importantly the capital) then its hard to complain.

A Walmart unfortunately looks better and pays more taxes than an abandoned building.

If the land was in such high demand in the first place, Walmart would never dare open a store there in the first place due to the property tax.

davvid
davvid

And you're not even man enough to actually reply to my last comment.

Black Rock Lifer
Black Rock Lifer

My experience has been the big box retailers talk a good talk but rarely engage with the communities that make their success possible. They are quick to pose for a photo op or blow their own horn about their donation to some cause of the month but never seem to offer any real or long term support.

I have been involved with many volunteer community projects over the past 20 years. When we looked for help the big guys almost always ignored us or offered tokens like free gloves or garbage bags. The small neighborhood based business usually gave generously, even volunteered themselves to help. They often did so quietly without expecting to be recognized, this is what community is all about.

Residents and area small business owners worked together to create a park at Amherst and Niagara, to create greenspace and plant trees at the Amherst/Tonawanda traffic islands, to paint the Amherst St viaduct, and to replace and maintain the Black Rock sign at Niagara and Amherst. Wal Mart is the antithesis of that dynamic.

Postermaster
Postermaster

Well Davvid, since you were my greeter, so were you.

davvid
davvid

You are such a disappointment.

Black Rock Lifer
Black Rock Lifer

Karl- Wal Mart doesn't engage with the community in a meaningful way, that would add cost and deny the Walton family and the idle investor class from squeezing every last penny out of every poor soul unlucky to be involved with Wal Mart. I do respect Wal Mart for being an equal opportunity abuser, after all they exploit people from all over the world, not just Americans. They exploit and abuse woman, minorities, illegal aliens, third world citizens, and the communities they occupy. I think Wal Mart does get a bad rap, they are simply the naked face of corporate America and their right wing allies that worships at the altar of greed and excess.

davvid
davvid

A Walmart greeter actually raping an American consumer would be ironic.

davvid
davvid

come on. level with us. You didn't really enjoy the sodomy but you sort of had to say you did otherwise...you know. I'm just saying...we all have to make decisions.

Black Rock Lifer
Black Rock Lifer

An authentic Mexican restaurant would fit nicely down here in Lower Black Rock. The Sun Asian Restaurant (authentic) at Niagara and Austin has been very successful here and has expanded their dining room. There are a couple of storefronts on the east side of Niagara St between Amherst and Hamilton. One was the long time home of Georges Texas Hots. This location is highly visible and always seemed to be popular, might want to consider checking it out.

Postermaster
Postermaster

Wal-Mart business model is to extort government, impoverish third world nations and have sexual intercourse with underage women. Last time I enter a Wal-Mart, the greeter attempted to rape me. I enjoyed it, but I'm sure others do not.

LouisTully
LouisTully

Are you going to bless this region with REAL Mexican food?

TheRepatformerlyknownasosirisascending
TheRepatformerlyknownasosirisascending

We just looked into acquiring the former Dickie's Donuts location at Elmwood & Hertel.

Wal-Mart possibly moving into that area means we won't be.

Black Rock Lifer
Black Rock Lifer

Wal Mart's business model is based on exploiting employees, suppliers, and the workers that produce the products they sell. The "falling prices" they advertise are directly related to falling wages, moving production to third world countries, and putting pressure on suppliers to cut wages even further. Wal Mart is in the extraction business, extracting wealth from a community while returning little to nothing. Just another example of a corporation that adds to the great disparity in wealth and keeps America workers from prospering.

vjp
vjp

Walmart pressures companies to charge it less for items or will cease carrying. It resulted in the end of Rubbermaid as we knew it (since merged with Newell and buckled to Walmart demands), has caused companies to move production out of the US to lower production costs and meet Walmart demands (see Spangler candy canes), and countless others. And yet, Walmart is often not the lowest cost provider for items. It just sells more because perception is that everything is cheaper. One of my favorite pieces on Walmart is a Frontline series from 8 years ago. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/walmart/etc/script.html . I will say that Walmart has given me an experience no other store anywhere else ever has: my cashier was led out in handcuffs in the middle of my sales transaction on one of the few occasions I bought something there.

The Boss
The Boss

not many retail workers actually log 40 hours/week, the employer makes it a point to avoid that so they do not qualify for benefits

grad94
grad94

as long as population and disposable income are falling instead of rising, there is no net economic gain when walmart enters a local economy. opening a new big box here just means closing an older one there, wiping out locally-owned businesses along the way. no new jobs will be created.

here is how walmart affected chicago, which is much more prosperous than we are:

http://www.theatlanticcities.com/jobs-and-economy/2012/09/radiating-death-how-walmart-displaces-nearby-small-businesses/3272/

bung
bung

Just think after Wal-Mart builds, ten years later we will have new vacant building on that site or a HUGE dollar store.

SBZ
SBZ

I don't think Buffalo needs a Wal-Mart at all. All it does is hurt small local retailers.

If you want an example just turn to Lockport, as soon as Wal-Mart went in the shops on main st seemed to close up overnight. They have however started coming back but its taken 10-15 years. Lockport also had a Mall before Wal-Mart went in, yes it was struggling a little but Wal-Mart was the final nail in the coffin.

There has to be a better use for that corner then a Wal-Mart.

synthesis
synthesis

I like the idea of a walmart moving in here. Its a little closer to the zoo for me and the exhibits are free!

ForestBird
ForestBird

ps - Let Walmart rent the hideous gasometer on Elmwood, otherwise known as the new Burchfield-Penney museum. It's already more ugly than any WalMart, has a big parking lot built on "pristine land", and is much closer to potential clientelle than Hertel/Elmwood.

ForestBird
ForestBird

Quoth Buffaboy: "Because when do you hear about shootings at Canisius or shops and businesses in that area? Never."

CONSTANTLY is the correct answer to your question, if we consider "that area" - Delavan is a hotbed of shootings and death. I genuinely fear for my own life every night, as I work in that very neighborhood.

As for Walmart opening in Buffalo, retail here is a Zero-Sum Game: their business will necessarily be drawn from existing stores, and those stores will suffer to the exact degree that WalMart prospers. If other stores are forced to "shed" employees, they'll be forced to apply at WalMart.

Buffaboy
Buffaboy

My fellow Buffalonians, this is a great announcement for North Buffalonians, but not East, West or South Buffalonians. The West Side has a Wegmans and Tops (with a Hispanic flair to it), South Buffalo has a plethora of grocery stores, but what does the East Side have? Not much of anything, but some ghetto Tops on Jefferson I believe (but Im not sure). Look, the East side has been neglegted since the late 70's and early 80's. It used to have a Sears and stores, and was as bustling as the West Side until history took it's course. But my point is, there are nostores or businesses on the East Side with the potential to create jobs because these businesses are afraid to move in. In fact, I'll bet all of you if any chain of any local, regional or national significance was looking over its war map of where to install their next/newest store in Buffalo they don't even consider the East Side. But do they consider the fact that it has 4 major highways running through it(33, 198, 5 (Main St.) and arguably the 90)! Don't forget about direct light rail access, vacant rail lines running straight throughout the East Side, and enough abandoned warehouses. In addition, it houses my father's alma mater, The big "C", in which he would walk to his house from his Hamlin park house. And this wasn't in the '40s or '50s or anything, it was the Superb Sixties with race riots and everything. But with Canisius College (hence the Big "C") in the HEART of the West Side, a prominent private school in the Northeast U.S., how can ANYONE possibly look over this beautifully convient section of the city in a perfect world? They can't. But they can today, and for one word: FEAR. Because when do you hear about shootings at Canisius or shops and businesses in that area? Never. All of this is just food for thought/my $0.02 on this.

BuffaloEmigrant
BuffaloEmigrant

Man, some of the regulars here really need to get a sense of humor.

Buffaboy
Buffaboy

Yes I heard this too. 2013 will be a rocky road for these folks, including the people on Hertel, but for the better.

Postermaster
Postermaster

Louis,

Yes, it has been a two day run with the PBR and ironic motif, it will continue forward for a few more runs so I can’t really help you there. The Malone question is another story.

I regularly get banned from this site. Steel often cuts my BR account b/c apparently my voice doesn't count, even though it does count in real world matters around here. My guess is he suffers from a God complex. Queenseye bans me for going over the line with my comments, but I cannot fault him for they often do.

So, when I re-register I come back in a slight reiteration of my original moniker: Karl Malone. This in spite of the fact that I am middle-class, white person, simply put, I love his game.

davvid
davvid

Right. The rules can and probably should change. The city should consider how a Walmart at that site might negatively affect the surrounding community and it should use its power to minimize that negative effect. It would take some time to analyze exactly what the effect has been on other communities and what aspect of Walmart's business model is so damaging. Walmart wouldn't be able to sell wine at their store for example. So wine shops have little to worry about. Perhaps there are other aspects of Wakmart's business model that could be regulated in order to protect small businesses in the community from unfair competition. I would urge lawmakers to do what they can to stop a Walmart altogether but I'm not sure exactly how that can happen.

whatever
whatever

"Why can't the city change the rules regulating this kind of retail store design in this neighborhood from this point forward."

I'd think the rules _can_ be changed as long as long as they'd apply to everyone (or at least all future businesses), not just singling out Walmart.

However, even though the rules can change, if you're referring to parking lot size or store square feet - I don't think a big new restriction in those is the majority consensus here as expressed so far in drafts of Green Code new zoning.

In other words, it seems to me the consensus among the mostly Democrats who are writing the new codes and will be enacting them officially is to continue what started mostly during Masiello's time with allowing in that general part of the city Tops, Target, Wegmans, Home Depot, Regal Cinema, etc.

That part of the city has been very popular for shopping.

I'd think the City _could_ if it wanted, for example, take the Elmwood Village rules and apply them to that northern part too. Such a decision would surely keep out Walmart, but it would also have many other side effect impacts in the future (even if it was legal to grandfather the current Target, etc).

But I don't think the City will choose to do anything like that because I don't think it's what most people would want. It would result in an even bigger portion of retail purchases happening in burbs.

davvid
davvid

Rules change. Why can't the city change the rules regulating this kind of retail store design in this neighborhood from this point forward. Target, Tops, Home Depot etc. have existed for 10 years or so and can be grandfathered in. Walmart poses a unique threat to the neighborhood economy and the city should respond to that threat.

whatever
whatever

I'd favor Walmart being allowed at Hertel-Elmwood with a big front parking lot like the City allows for Target, Tops, Home Depot, and many others in that general area... although I'm surprised if Walmart really isn't sticking with what looked like a strategy of staying outside of the city's boundaries. The new Seneca St Walmart is a few feet across the city line into West Seneca, and the new Amherst store is less than 2 miles from the city.

Maybe in the northern area there isn't a suitable site available in Kenmore, or maybe they don't think the current majority on the Common Council will try to unreasonably restrict them here.

Walmart should just have to follow the same rules as apply to everyone else here - no more, no less.

© 2014 Hyperlocal Media. All Rights Reserved.