Walmart Express coming to Green Forest
GREEN FOREST -- The world's largest retailer is coming to Green Forest -- but in a way that hasn't been tried a lot yet, Mayor Charles Reece told Carroll County News.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., based in Bentonville, will late this year open a Walmart Express store at 800 E. Main St., a smaller-format grocery store intended to be more convenient than its Supercenters -- the closest of which is located in Berryville.
The Walmart Express is a relatively new experiment for the retail giant as it morphs into forms suitable for further expansion into small towns and big cities, experts in the retail industry have said. There are just three of them in Arkansas and two in Illinois; the first one opened three years ago, according to Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s website.
The Walmart Express in Green Forest is expected to be about 12,000 square feet and will sit in the vacant field immediately to the west of the Family Dollar shopping center, said Reece. The announcement was made at last week's City Council meeting.
"It'll be about the same size as the Aldi store in Harrison," Reece added. "It will include a pharmacy and full-service grocery store."
It is expected to employ at least 20 people, officials said, and construction is to begin soon; bids are being sought now. The target opening date is November 2014, Reece said.
In 2011, Wal-Mart headquarters walked away from a proposal to build a Walmart Express in Eureka Springs because construction costs at the proposed site would have been too high and the site had no sewer line installed, according to news reports at the time. The proposed store also faced opposition from the small, historic tourist city.
But Reece said Green Forest was thrilled to have Walmart Express come to town.
Wal-Mart headquarters, for its part, is likely feeling the same. Recent financial results showed that while sales at all U.S. Stores dropped during the last quarter of 2013 (including holiday shopping season), a bright spot was that sales at Wal-Mart's smaller stores, including Neighborhood Markets and Walmart Express stores, were up 4 percent for the fiscal year.
While issuing the results in February, the retailer also changed its growth plans for this year, saying it will now double small store growth in 2014, and that as many as 300 new Walmart Express and Neighborhood Market stores would open by year's end.
The Walmart Express -- which was approved for a slight variance on parking spot requirements at the council meeting -- is only one of several new businesses recently announced for Green Forest.
Happy Dragon Chinese Restaurant will soon open, along with a small grocery store and a butcher shop, inside the old Reliable Poultry building on the square. Reece said they are awaiting final approval from the Health Department and will likely open by June 1.
Also opening soon on the square, next to The Country Rooster, is a "massage and relaxation without touch" business to be called Harmonious Heart, Reece said. The owner is Cindy Smith.
A new fitness center and tanning salon is opening Monday at the old Bonham Hardware building at 200 N. Main St., the mayor said; it will be called MC Fitness and Tanning.
And recently, Mountain Home-based American Stitchco announced plans to open a factory at the old Tanner Hardware building. "They're working in there, getting ready to bring all their factory equipment in," Reece noted.
In other business at the council meeting last week:
* Reece updated the council on annexation efforts, noting that the petitions for annexation have been submitted to the county clerk, and a public hearing has been set for Monday, June 9 at the courthouse in Berryville. Once the public hearing is held, the next step is for the City Council to pass an ordinance, and then the county will send it to the state for finalization, Reece said.
* The council learned that the Sixth Street drainage ditch project is about 90 percent complete.
* The council learned that it will soon be asked to approve the purchase of a new police squad car, and that is expected to come back before council in July.
* The council learned that the city is receiving a state grant for $159,000 to cover the cost of repaving Ratzlaff Avenue, part of 10th Street and up South Arch Street, Reece said. "After school is out we're going to put a 2-inch overlay on those streets, and it won't cost the city anything."