With Your Coffee

Happy weekend! How are you? This week I escaped the Vermont April weather by heading to Florida for a few days with my family and that sunshine sure felt great to this northerner. While I didn’t see much by way of historic districts or get the sense of urban planning, I did see a fair number of classic concrete block one-story mid century Florida homes. It was such a different environment. The sun, warmth, and palm trees were fabulous, but it’s always nice to come home to Burlington, Vermont. Thank you for the comments on last weekend’s “With Your Coffee.” Here are some good links for your morning coffee this weekend. Comment below if these articles speak to you. I’d love to chat.

Have a lovely weekend. Coffee cheers!

Save Money, Live Better.

I have a new Wal-Mart pet peeve that I’ve been meaning to mention for a while: the new commercials. I am referring to the commericals that tout “Save Money, Live Better” and no longer feature the annoying smiley face kicking down price signs. Now it has a pretty yellow flower on a softer blue background. (Granted, this is also because Wal-Mart failed to trademark the smiley face).  Instead, customers are talking about how Wal-Mart helps them save money and time, which then equates to more family time and a better quality of life.  There is even a Save Money, Live Better website. Apparently, this has been a campaign for a while now and I’ve somehow missed all of the commercials. But, blogs and news articles are talking about this campaign as Wal-Mart’s mid-life crisis and Wal-Marts attempt to change its image (which is quite often associated with the closing of local businesses).

Wal-Mart's infamous smiley face.

Wal-Mart's infamous smiley face.


The new Wal-Mart logo and catch phrase. Note that it is also now "Walmart" not "Wal-Mart".

These commercials are a brilliant ad campaign that drive me mad!  I can’t even watch the commercials without snarling at the television. Wal-Mart is still Wal-Mart, and everyone knows that. But, advertising is a powerful business and that is why the commercials make me so mad. I’m afraid that more people will shop at Wal-Mart because of these commercials, or they will no longer feel bad about shopping at Wal-Mart. Maybe someday Wal-Mart will change, but I wouldn’t bet anything on it. For now, they are changing their image. But, an image is only a facade.  I have a feeling I’ll despise these commercials for a long time.

Is anyone else bothered by this campaign?

“Save money. Live better”? Or not.

Big Box Retail & Historic Resources Debate

After last Friday’s post, Hey Wal-Mart! Ever Hear of “Historic Significance”?, Missy left a great comment that I think, should spark a healthy debate between many of us. Here is her comment:

Allow me to counter that petitioning Wal-Mart is not going to stop the real problem, nor is it really fair to blame Wal-Mart. They are doing nothing illegal. If people were concerned about this issue or preserving the battlefield they should have done something before that land was zoned to allow commercial development or any large scale development. Just because what is being built there is not what people wanted is not a valid argument. Even if Wal-Mart is stopped, won’t save the battlefield. Who’s to say Target or Whole Foods or Giant won’t try to locate there instead. Also, I wonder how much of a buffer is needed around historic sites in order for their integrity to remain?

For debate, my response to the comment:

It’s true that the umbrella issue of the story is that any big box retailer or developer is capable of doing the same thing that Wal-Mart is doing in Orange County, VA. It is not illegal to build on that site since it is zoned commercially. And yes, the county should have rezoned the land to protect historic resources, especially a national battlefield. (Similarly, many National Parks are faced with encroachment issues).

However, I imagine that it would impossible to keep up to speed with rezoning and development at the same time. Therefore, I consider this issue to be about more than Wal-Mart. It is about corporate America and developers who feel that they can build anywhere and will not consider other options, or only pretending to consider options, pacifying the “little people”. Fighting the law or big business takes money, which is what such national retailers have, whereas the general population and local governments often do not have.

But, if we are to consider Wal-Mart: as one of the largest corporate retailers, they should assume some responsibility as a representation of how businesses operate. While some businesses are choosing to not follow Wal-Mart’s practices, many are because of the fact that Wal-Mart has been so successful. So, if Wal-Mart will build anywhere, then other businesses will build anywhere because that is how to be successful. And maybe Wal-Mart doesn’t want to be a model for American business, but when you get to the top, it’s hardly avoidable. The same goes for leaders, bosses, owners, oldest siblings, captains, etc. By rising to the top, you have automatically earned the position of a successful model. Just because it is not against the law, does not mean that practices should be overlooked. Change is necessary as society progresses.

And no, petitioning will not help initially, but a solution has to start somewhere. Someone has to take that first step. And sometimes petitions and small news articles are the only ways to get attention. If enough people voice their opinion and are proactive about change, then the small beginnings will have made a difference. If the town or county can stand up to Wal-Mart, then perhaps other businesses will shy around from that area because of the fact that a group actually said no to Wal-Mart and won.

Perhaps, the general population needs a better example on how to bring about change to business and the local government. Clearly, we need to promote rezoning and be proactive, rather than reactive towards protection of historic sites and resources. Any suggestions?

In regards to how much of a buffer is needed to protect historic sites: that seems like an unanswered question. My gut feeling would be the viewshed, but of course that is debatable.

And those are just my thoughts. Anyone else?

Choosing Between Chain Stores

I may have said this before, but occasionally I do drink Starbucks coffee, meaning I willingly hand my money to corporate America. How can I do this? Well, when I buy Starbucks it is because I do not have other options. And if I am going to choose between the chain coffee sellers, I will choose Starbucks based on company policies and yes, taste.  I do enjoy Starbucks coffee (good, black coffee) but when given an option, I’ll take my local coffee shop any day. What about you? When forced to choose a chain store, how do you decide?

I invite readers to respond to Friday’s post and offer your opinions on Wal-Mart and other chain stores in terms of development and responsibility.  Please read the comments, particuarly Missy’s, which brings up excellent discussion points. Post a comment or send an email to preservationinpink@gmail.com. Send it today or tomorrow, please. I’d like to have a few blog posts based on such discussions. No expertise needed, just logical thought of your own!

And for a good Monday thought, here is what I read on the back of my Starbucks cup:

The Way I See it #292

“The way we get to live forever is through memories stored in the hearts and souls of those whose lives we touch. That’s our soul print. It’s our comfort, our emotional nourishment at the end of the day and the end of a life. How wonderful that they are called up at will and savored randomly. It seems to me we should spend our lives in a conscious state of creating these meaningful moments that live on. Memories matter.”

Leeza Gibbons, TV & Radio personality


Quite applicable to parts of historic preservation, don’t you think?  And of course, it reminds me of oral history. (Though, it’s hard for me to not think about oral history).

Hey Wal-Mart! Ever Hear of “Historic Significance”?

Apparently, Wal-Mart has not or does not care. It’s probably the latter. Why? Wal-Mart has plans underway to build yet another store in the Fredericksburg, VA area.  Yet another? Aren’t there three already? See the map below.  The new store planned will be 8 miles away from other Wal-Mart stores.  It will be about one mile from the battlefield. (Be sure to look at the scale when looking at these maps).

It gets worse. Wal-Mart is building closer than ever before to a historic site – to a national battlefield. The Wilderness Battlefield, where Wal-Mart wants to build its 145,000 sq. ft. store, is one of the most significant Civil War battlefields.  I won’t reiterate everything that the National Trust explains, read the post Wal-Mart Superstore Threatens Wilderness Battlefield.

This battlefield is in Orange County, VA, which sadly has not been very good with smart development in the past. It is one of the fastest growing areas in the country.  Read this Washington Post article for an overview of the issue, the consequences, and what Orange County officials think. (It doesn’t bode well for the battlefield).  Here’s a quote from the article:

Keith Morris, a spokesman for Wal-Mart, said that the company has looked at other locations in the area but that none was as attractive. “This is the site we’re going forward with,” Morris said, describing it as “an ideal location.” The land is already zoned for commercial use and targeted for development by Orange County, he said. “There is a void here in this immediate area, especially in retail growth.”

How about this one?

The company has offered to place commemorative markers and other monuments to the battle at the supercenter. “There’s no reason why [the battlefield and the store] can’t coexist,” Morris said.

What can we do? The National Trust has set up a petition to sign to show your opposition to Wal-Mart near the Wilderness Battlefield.

While I may despise Wal-Mart, this isn’t just about Wal-Mart. It’s about all developers, commercial and residential, who build too close to our historic resources. Once these resources are gone, we can’t get them back.  A historic marker can never replace what we lost due to development. 

Thanks to Maria for sending the Washington Post link to me. And thanks to the HispAlum group for starting a conversation as well. Spread the word, preservationists!!

Wal-Mart under the Kitchen Sink

Saturday night I had to pack my suitcase and collect my possessions that I randomly scattered throughout my parents’ house over the course of a short four days. I reached under the kitchen sink to grab a plastic bag for dirty clothes and what do I pull out, but a white bag with blue block lettering: WAL-MART. My reaction is always the same when this happens at home: really people, do you have to do this to me?

As much as I don’t like admitting it, my family sometimes shops at Wal-Mart. I haven’t shopped there in over three years for anything, but there are just some battles that you can’t win with family members.  One of my sisters repeatedly tells me that it’s her only option and Target is the same thing anyway. I agree. Target is basically the same. I have family members who work for Target and will attest to the similarities. After all, it is corporate America in the form of megastores.  It’s easier for families to shop at such chain retailers because of low prices and everything is in one place from toiletries to basics like paper towels to cat food and litter.

Coming from a less than wealthy family with a high cost of living, I have always understood the cost of a good deal and the importance of a budget.  So in these cases, I fail to argue a proper point. Of course I can elaborate on the poor business practices and the overall effects on the economy and small business and the preservation consequences, but when it comes to telling my sister where to find cheaper things, I can’t come up with a satisfactory answer, yet.

This has become an argument that I always encounter when I’m home, even if my sister just enjoys goading me. I’m at the point where I try to avoid such a discussion and stick to my own principles.  My family is proving harder to convince to abandon Wal-Mart altogether than my classmates.  However, they did watch Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices, with me, which kept them away for a while. But as every other stores becomes more and more like Wal-Mart, it’s harder to justify boycotting one over the over.  As for me? I do my best to avoid all of them.  The extra dimes it costs me are more than worth my dignity.  And it says to me that I need to find better arguments for families sticking to “Main Street” shopping that are more tangible in the short term (because we know the long term benefits.) But it’s still painful to accidentally grab a Wal-Mart bag.

The Eternal Division

People will never agree on Wal-Mart, which upsets many of us to no end.  We can only hope that communities will realize there is another way to economic revitalization and job growth.  Here is an example of two Virginia towns:  Abingdon, where downtown is thriving and curses Wal-Mart.  And then Grundy, VA, where Wal-Mart is coming into town and everyone believes that it will save the town and bring it back from the brink of extinction.   

Normally, I wouldn’t post about an article and just leave the link, but this is worthy of your time and thought.  And contrasting opinions are always good. 

Thanks to Elyse for sending the article my way!