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Maine Villages Fight Wal-Mart Invasion

| Written by Stacy Mitchell | 2 Comments | Updated on Oct 27, 2005 The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/maine-villages-fight-walmart-invasion/

It was standing room only at the public library in the coastal town of Damariscotta, Maine, this week when more than 80 people gathered to kick off a campaign to keep out Wal-Mart by adopting a law that would limit stores to no more than 35,000 square feet.

The grassroots group, calling itself Our Town Damariscotta, hopes to gather the 200 signatures needed by Nov. 1 to formally bring the size cap measure before voters at a Town Meeting.

Although not yet officially confirmed, it appears that Wal-Mart has been looking at a potential site on the edge of town to build a 109,000 square foot superstore

Damariscotta is a village of just 2,000 people. It has a lively downtown with numerous locally owned businesses that would compete with a superstore, including a pharmacy, grocery store, and department store.

Wal-Mart is increasingly looking to build giant stores in small New England villages. Earlier this year, the company announced its intention to open a supercenter in Derby, Vermont, a community of 4,500 in an isolated region near the Canadian border.

Wal-Mart may also be looking at a site in Thomaston, Maine, a town of 3,800 people about half an hour east of Damariscotta. There, a developer has proposed a 350,000 square foot retail project (likely to be two big-box stores, plus some smaller fast-food or retail outlets), but has not yet revealed the tenants.

Thomaston residents are fighting the plan. They have submitted enough petition signatures to bring a 70,000 square foot size cap before voters at a special Town Meeting.

Many people find it hard to believe that Wal-Mart would look to open stores the size of two or three football fields in small villages. But Wal-Mart wants the whole retail pie and this is part of their market saturation strategy. They purposely build far more retail space than towns can support in order to flood the local area with excess capacity and thereby capsize smaller competitors.

 

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About Stacy Mitchell

Stacy Mitchell is co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, and directs its Community-Scaled Economy Initiative, which produces research and analysis, and partners with a range of allies to design and implement policies that curb economic consolidation and strengthen community-rooted enterprise.  She is the author of Big-Box Swindle and also produces a popular monthly newsletter, the Hometown Advantage Bulletin.  Connect with her on twitter and catch her TEDx Talk: Why We Can’t Shop Our Way to a Better Economy. More

Contact Stacy   |   View all articles by Stacy Mitchell

  • Darby Fleming

    I hope the citizens of Thomaston. Maine prevail, if for no other reason than the conversation I overheard while having lunch at J’s Oyster in Portland about two weeks ago. Sitting not two feet away from me were four WalMart execs of some kind and they were loudly discussing their plans for Maine. Admittedly, I couldn’t hear everything, but I did hear their extremely dismissive comments regarding Thomaston in general. The town was described as “having nothing” and they were making fun of the way they were sure that the “town fathers” would ask for easily accomplished cosmetic improvements to the town because “they will see a company with big pockets moving in”. One of the men told a story of how he sat in, incognito, on a planning board meeting and left just before it was over. He was gloating about how he had avoided questions from residents who wanted specifically to speak with him, but didn’t know him by sight. There was a lot more. It was disgusting and I am afraid represents the generally contemptuous Big Box culture with regard to the communities where they are thinking of trying to enter or expand.