Brief by Central Staff
Wal-Mart – October 1997 – Colorado Central Magazine
The Grand Opening of the Big Box happened on September 10. It was welcome, since it came after weeks of being unable to find many varieties of merchandise at the old Wal-Mart because inventory was being moved (and being unable to find some of the stuff anywhere else in Salida, since those stores had closed after Wal-Mart No. 1 opened in 1986) .
The 2½-acre Superstore’s first day attracted 41,326 of Salida’s 5,197 residents, 21 busloads of Texas tourists, two dozen flocks of migrating Snowbirds, and four UFOs from Arcturus, all also marveling at Salida’s second stoplight.
Actually, we didn’t take any such census, although it did seem crowded when we dropped by. But there were union members passing out fliers.
They belonged to Local No. 7 of the United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents most Safeway employees in Salida.
The handbills were headlined Super Wal-Mart attempts to devastate the economy in Salida, and attacked Wal-Mart for “starvation wages.” Shoppers were urged to patronize Safeway and locally owned stores, or “move to Bentonville, Ark., where excessive company profits can be enjoyed.”
Moving to Wal-Mart’s corporate home probably wouldn’t help much, though. Bentonville is the seat of Benton County, which in 1994 had a median household annual income of $26,021 and an average per capita income of $12,274, with 6.8% of households under the poverty level.
Chaffee County is poorer, but not greatly so: median household income $21,174, per capita income $10.788, and 11.4% beneath the poverty line.
Ron Ertl, the local Wal-Mart manager, said the company has always paid its “associates” more than the minimum wage, and of the 235 employees at the new store, 75% are full-time.