Wal-Mart impact being felt

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Features Editor

When Wal-Mart announced in September 2001 that its newest and largest distribution center would be located in Brundidge, local business people and the city government began to have visions of bigger and better days ahead and, perhaps, more than a jingle in their pockets.

With site preparation and construction underway, the business community is beginning to feel the rumbling of the boom they hope will come.

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Even with the work force at the Wal-Mart site at only about 20 percent, a number of businesses are seeing an increase in sales, especially in fuel.

However, vehicle fuel is running a distant second to fuel for the body.

Kim White, employee at the Brundidge Amoco station just south of the intersection of Highway 231 and Highway 10,

said gas sales might be up slightly, but there has been a big jump in the sales of sandwiches, snack items and cold drinks,

"And, ice," she said. "It’s hot and the workers buy a lot of bagged ice."

Bagged ice sales at the Chevron at the intersection have almost doubled, said Ginger Helms, clerk.

"We’ve not seen much of an increase in gas sales, but bagged ice, tobacco products and beer sales are really up," Helms said. "The workers come in –

beginning around 5:45 in the morning, at lunch and then around 7:30 when they start home. That’s probably our biggest crowd."

Peggy Parker, manager of the Chevron, said as the number of workers at the site increases, she is hoping to see a big increase in business.

"We are excited about having Wal-Mart here and the opportunities that will come with it," Parker said. "We believe our business will benefit, as well as others along the highway and in town, too."

However, "town, too" isn’t seeing much of a difference in its business, yet.

Linda Faust, manager of Pinckard’s Gas and Food Marts in Brundidge and on U.S. Highway 231, said the store on the highway is experiencing a noticeable increase in diesel fuel sales, but the store in downtown Brundidge has not.

"When the distribution center opens and people from the Clio area start working there, I expect to see an increase in sales – gas and food mart items – at the Brundidge store," she said. "We also hope sales will continue to increase at the store on the highway. With all of the traffic that will be created, a number of businesses should get a boost."

Fast food eateries at the Brundidge intersection are already getting a boost in business.

Cynthia Critten, manager of Hardee’s, estimated that business has increase by as much as 30 percent since Wal-Mart broke ground.

"At first, we weren’t prepared," she said. "But, now we are. The workers start coming in around 11:30 and we are ready for them."

Critten said the workers are mainly a lunch bunch at Hardee’s and haven’t made a difference at breakfast time.

"When the number of workers increases this summer, we will increase the number of employees to handle the extra business we hope will come," she said.

Across the street at Subway, Marty

Tarey, owner, said he, too, has noticed a significant increase in his business.

"We’re getting people all day long," he said. "We really appreciate their business and it’s going to be nice when they are at full work force. We hope they will come our way."

Johnny Garrett didn’t have to wait for the workers to come his way. Because the IGA has a catering business, he was able to take his business to them.

"Wal-Mart actually asked us about doing lunch for them," Garrett said. "We rented space from the Brundidge Country Club and we’re serving breakfast and lunch. All the workers have to do is walk across the street. Since they only have 30 minutes for lunch, that works good for them.’

Garrett’s IGA is serving between 80 and 100 lunches and expects that number to climb as the number of workers increases.

"From what I’ve heard, there will be around 1,000 workers on-site by the middle of June," Garrett said. "When it gets to that point, we’ll probably serve three meals a day, seven days a week."

While the eateries and gas stations are enjoying the new-found business and are gearing up for the extra business they hope will come, the city of Brundidge is also benefiting from having Wal-Mart come to town.

Wilma Price, utility manger for the city, said eight trailers have been set up at the site for use as office buildings and deposits have been paid to the electric department.

"We have heard that there will be as many as 20 trailers in the future," Price said. "That means increased revenue in the electric department."

However, the biggest initial padding to the city’s coffer could be in the area of licenses and license taxes.

Faye Terry, court clerk, said general contractors must have a license to operate in the city of Brundidge and they must also pay a license tax.

The business license is $75, but the license tax can be rather hefty at a quarter of 1 percent of their contract.

"At this time, we have four general contractors who have purchased a business license and owe a license tax," Terry said. "One of the contractors, Jay-Tom, a general contractor from Texas, has a $3 million contract. That’s about $7,000 in taxes."

All-in-all, Wal-Mart is making a jingle in the pockets of business and the city government in Brundidge. Everyone is thankful for that, but hoping for more than a jingle as time goes by.