Boxed In, or: Once Again, From Oak Cliff, the Call for All of Dallas to "Think Small"

Categories: Development
JeffersonBlvd.jpg
Since it's Follow-Up Wednesday here, may I direct your attention to a piece Jason Roberts posted this morning on Go Oak Cliff, which is more or less a response-slash-reaction-to Schutze's piece yesterday about that Oak Cliff Walmart planned for Fort Worth Ave. Not to reopen Tuesday's still-fresh can o' worms, Roberts' piece, which is also generating quite the back-and-forth, isn't necessarily about Walmart, but about how Oak Cliff, per its year-old motto, needs to think small, lest the landscape become further pockmarked with empty big boxes -- an epidemic hardly specific to Oak Cliff, where, Roberts writes, "within a 5 mile radius you'll find shuttered Albertson's, KMart's, Mervyn's and beyond that Circuit City's, Expo Design Centers, Drug Emporiums, and more."

It's not about Walmart, Roberts insists, but the impact it could have on other stores, big and small, in the neighborhood. (Which is a question many of our neighborhoods will have to ask once Walmart begins opening those 14 planned locations, two of which -- a Sam's and a Walmart -- will sit right next to each other on Northwest Highway across from Bachman Lake and that Target on the other side of Lemmon Avenue.) What happens if and when the Walmarts run the mom-and-pops, or the other big boxes, out of business?
So what form works? It's simple: Think small. Who do we want to enable in our community, the small business storefront or the giant box? Which one allows for a small entrepreneur to get a toehold in business? Which one can be immediately reborn if the building closes? Which one is safe for children and the elderly to walk to? Which one creates pride in a community? Which one is the long term solution for helping the poor? Keep in mind, that 50% of residents in Dallas don't own a car...they're either too young, too old, too poor, or have disabilities. So which development is inclusive of all?
At which point he points out that W. Jefferson Boulevard, especially between Zang and Polk, is the perfect template. (Though it could use better parking; no one would argue with that.) Speaking of: Lunch at the Charco Broiler sounds good right about now.
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73 comments
Elizabeth Souder-Philyaw
Elizabeth Souder-Philyaw

Proof: If you want to buy a Bernina (top-of-the-line sewing machine for hobbyists), there is _one_ retailer in Manhattan. And I know from experience this retailer a. doesn't answer the phone, b. doesn't have a functioning website and c. isn't open evenings or weekends.

http://www.berninausa.com/deal...

This is the reality of the cute little urban retail utopia that you suburbanites have imagined. Live it before you debate it.

Elizabeth Souder-Philyaw
Elizabeth Souder-Philyaw

The garment district doesn't sell patterns or sewing machines. It's for profesionals who have industrial sewing machines and design their own clothing. Often you have to spend a minimum amount of money to shop in those stores, because they are designed for professionals, not hobbyists. I bought what I could in Manhattan, then drove to Jersey for the rest.

Dallas photographer Scott Dorn
Dallas photographer Scott Dorn

 Robert I spend alot of time here  on friday hanging out with a buddy of mine   good place for photo but the chaco broiler has the best tasting steak at low prices!!  My favorite steakhouse period.

TimCov
TimCov

 After what Walmart did to Garland, I would never welcome one in my neighborhood. Rather than remodeling the Hypermart/Walmart at Garland Rd and 635, they built a new one less than a mile away. Now there is a giant box and parking lot sitting abandoned (for years now). Welcoming a Walmart (or any other big box store) to your neighborhood is short term thinking. Eventually, they will abandon the location and your community will be stuck with an eyesore that hardly any other business can use. Smaller business locations have the advantage of being more flexible (and thus able to take in a larger variety of businesses).

cp
cp

Over in my neighborhood, there is a Wal Mart and a Sam's right next to each other (I-30 and Buckner). And in between the two, there is A TON of other places.

There are three small clothing stores, a shoe store, a Mexican restaurant, a Wing Stop, a T- mobile store, a Dollar Tree, a Game Stop, and I think a fabric place and one other little store. Oh, and an Army/Navy recruiting place. None of those stores hurt for business and none of the storefronts are available for lease. Just around the corner there's a Mexican Bazzar full of tone of unique stuff, and it is also not suffering for business. It used to be a K-Mart. There's also a tire shop, a Wahataburger, a 7-11, a Taco Cabana and a Pawn Shop, another cell phone place and a tax business.

Sharon Boyd
Sharon Boyd

In Lewisville, the W-Mart & Sam's share a parking lot on Main (west of I-35),  There are shopping centers with other stores on both sides of Main for miles.  Considering what's at Webb Chapel now, a Sams and W-Mart will be 10 times better. 

It's just too scary to go down there to shop as it is. 

LaceyB
LaceyB

When I went to the O.C., it was still pretty spread out, though. It woulda been one hell of a long bike ride to go from, say, Metro Diner (the open one) to the Texas Theater.If they really are gonna be small about it, make it walkable, with all amenities and living in walking distance, and DART running nearby or streetcar or whatever.

G_David
G_David

"a Sam's and a Walmart -- will sit right next to each other on Northwest Highway"

I thought you were talking about the development at Skillman, right between TWO Targets.  I had no idea they were doing the same thing a few miles west.

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

Jefferson would be perfect for serious redevelopment and could be a model of doing it properly. As of right now, outside of the Charco Broiler, it reminds me of Guadalajara w/o any of the charm. How many damn pawn shops and cash checking places can go up in the same block? Id love to see some smaller, independent businesses, restaurants and bars go up on the block. 

Guest
Guest

I think the problem is how mom and pop stores are defined these days. Mom and pop stores used to be general purpose or if more specialized, providing a basic need like clothes for a  reasonable price. But these days mom and pop stores are defined as any small, locally owned business and  they tend to be pricey, niche stores instead of providing basic needs. So sure, if the mom and pop stores are meeting the basic needs of an area, great, but if they're not a Wal Mart or Target is eventually going to come in and fill those needs.

Guest
Guest

I'm not able to preach since I shop at Wal-Mart and Target all the time, but I've frequently felt that one of the problems we have in getting downtown Dallas to be more liveable is that we tore down all these small/smallish storefronts in order to build giant, closed-off office buildings (that tended to not have street-level retail).

I don't want to see the same mistake happening in the OC, either.

Texaspainter
Texaspainter

Jefferson is the perfect laboratory for this type of development, far beyond Ft. Worth Ave lack of foot traffic.Having grown up here in the 60's and 70's, Jefferson and Wynnewood were the centers of everything. There was no need to go beyond their plats. For anything. Jason is right on this one.The infrastructure is already there. It just depends on what people are willing to pay for those items. There will always big box stores but at this point, we in OC have to opportunity to 'think outside of the box" (no pun)and make attempts to nudge this along.It's called commitment.

cp
cp

Um... talk to your city councilman on that one...

Paul S
Paul S

 and how much tax income does a massive empty box generate?

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

I guarantee you if OC could cut itself off from the rest of DISD, its property values would soar.Investors would surge in.

No WalMart or any other big box does the long-term damage our own school board members do to individual neighborhoods and the city as a whole. 

scottindallas
scottindallas

 Big D diner, Big D diner, Big D Diner.  I don't think you really live there, or, you haven't fully appreciated the area if you're forgetting about Big D.

md
md

How does that fit in the long-term solution for helping the poor? Keep in mind, 50% of residents in Dallas don't own a car...they're either too young, too old, too poor, or have disabilities.

shrubstex
shrubstex

 Walmart is finally getting as close as it can to Park Cities since the 2 story 24 hour a day Walmart was nixed at Mockingbird and Lemmon a few years ago. I understand a new J. C Penny is schedule at the Skillman Northwest Hiway intersection too. 

Coleman
Coleman

to be fair, I think it's moving in that direction. Texas Theater is awesome, and Huckleberry's, while not quite on jefferson, is pretty cool too 

alfredo
alfredo

Couldn't agree more, I was reading the posts about Jefferson and wondering  but planet these people were on or when was the last time they were actually on Jefferson 

Mekhong Kurt
Mekhong Kurt

This is an excellent point well worth mulling over -- that today smallish, independent stores tend to be niche ones, often coming in on the high end in terms of price.

Further, your point implies a point I myself have made countless times in comment sections such as these: a great many of us aren't wil;ling to pay $10 for an item at a Mom-n'-Pop shop when we can go another few blocks and get it for half that at a big-box store. And that moves into the area of American jobs, of course. . Sure, there would be more retail jobs if we all did all of our shopping in locally-owned businesses -- but how many of us are willing to pay a thousand bucks for a computer we can get at a place like Walmart for hundreds, literally hundreds, less?

And that has implications for development anywhere. 

Lee
Lee

You are absolutely right. For years there has not been anyplace to open a boutique, shoe shine parlor, small restaurant or any other kind of shop, whatever an entreprenurial person wanted to try. 

Edgar
Edgar

Agreed - Jefferson is a natural street to host many of the types of establishments to which Jason Roberts refers.  As existing leases expire, niche stores will trickle in.  Yet there's a massive distinction between working with what's already in place and re-zoning Fort Worth Ave. to create another hipster paradise.

People who shop at Hampton and FWA already have cars - most are in families that have two cars.  Their livelihood often depends on the mobility those cars provide.  To rip the rug out from under them by forcing them to drive further and further away to get reasonably inexpensive goods is hardly equitable.

cp
cp

What is this "Big D Diner" that you speak of? Do you mean Circle Grill which is one the other side of the freeway?

Guest
Guest

Jefferson is actually the only Oak Cliff street I've been on recently.

Anonymous
Anonymous

 I'm going to try and not talk down to you, because you are not being intentionally thick about it, but do you get that the whole point of Wal Mart is to put small retailers who sell items at a reasonable price out of business? The reason that you only see small, independent stores selling higher priced, niche goods, is that Wal Mart has put everyone else out of business and made it completely unprofitable for anyone else to come into the market and fill the void so the middle class and below is FORCED in to shopping at Wal Mart or paying a premium for the sake of saying they "supported a local business" as if it's supposed to be charity. Wal Mart isn't in the business of selling $10 organic goat cheese, so they could care less (for now) if a store closeby is in that market. I thought this concept was common sense but I guess I am wrong.

Coleman
Coleman

 What you're seeing isn't necessarily a high price point on things at an independent shop, so much as a enormous price cut at the big box stores. That's how Wal-Marts and other big box stores drive smaller stores out of business, but undercutting their prices so much that there's no longer any competition. 

Paul S
Paul S

 can we call you JC?

Guest
Guest

 I only call it that to annoy you. :)

Granny
Granny

Well, I see plenty of small businesses opening up here in Oak Cliff. AND a shoe shine/repair shop just opened last month about a mile from our house.

Paul S
Paul S

 I'm just saying the GreenPet and Walmart comparison isn't a good argument because they aren't really selling the same stuff. And since you kinda brought it up there is also  environmental and social/political considerations in buying cheap petfood (or many other products).

Edgar
Edgar

@Paul: I think I'll take my chances. 

Paul S
Paul S

 Also comparing the pet food selection at GreenPet to what they sell at Walmart and Target is somewhat akin to comparing the food selection at McDonald's to The Spiral Diner. And you'll pay in the end with a higher and more frequent vet bills.

Paul S
Paul S

 The whole point of Walmart, Target and other box stores is to make money and please the stock holders. I don't believe that there is a precise conspiracy to destroy mom & pop just a lack of ethical practices. Politicians like them because they look good on their resume, they are big and they can say that they helped create jobs with a single action by bringing in a box store. The politicians do this by giving them tax intensives to come in so while you can make the argument that box stores are better for the working poor because the pricing is a bit less in the end this takes city services away from the same people. What's the point in paying $50 less for a flat screen TV if its going to get stolen the next week anyway?

rubbercow
rubbercow

I am not advocating for a Utopia.  I am advocating for having respect for your neighbors.

The dialogue became about color because you made it about color.

Edgar
Edgar

I guess I'm only willing to be moderately involved in the community.  I like a lot of family-owned shops and restaurants.  But like most people, I rely on chain vendors or internet vendors for most of the everyday stuff.  If that distances me from my neighbors, so be it.  And if you honestly think that people will voluntarily submit themselves to your utopia, you underestimate the power of competition.

And, ugh.  How did you bend this dialogue into anything that involves color.  Most people will patronize a store regardless of what color its owners are.  I'm no exception.

rubbercow
rubbercow

Edgar, please.  All of us have bills to pay.  If you were to open a shop in a place that afforded you the opportunity to be an actual part of the community - a neighbor - and then you were confronted with people who only cared about getting things cheaply how would you feel about your community?  The race to the bottom is just that.  It cannot be won except by those who already have more than enough money. 

Certainly, no person (or neighbor) is actually inherently better or more worthy of your support (short of unscrupulous businesses, which Green Pet hardly falls into) than any other. 

Of course, no business organization is going to subsidize your business (outside of social benefits), but you are completely missing the point.  If you want to live in a totally cut-throat world then you should be prepared to have your throat cut.  If you want to be part of a neighborhood, you should be willing to support your neighbors even though they are a different color than you are.

Edgar
Edgar

I like my neighbors, but why are neighbors inherently better and more worthy of my support than non-neighbors?  The Green Pet is a nice little store.  I've shopped there.  But realistically, I've got bills to pay, and I don't see its owners subsidizing my business.

rubbercow
rubbercow

You continue to support people that don't live anywhere near you and that you will never know.  I think a lot of people like to support their neighbors.

Edgar
Edgar

Not true.  I can buy dogfood at plenty of places other than WalMart that are much smaller yet still waaaay less expensive than, say, Green Pet in Bishop Arts. 

rubbercow
rubbercow

I accept your back-handed compliment.

Edgar
Edgar

Thanks for the education.  You should speak more precisely. 

rubbercow
rubbercow

Edgar, I am well aware of what loss leading is and how it works.  I managed a 7 mil/year retail bookstore for 5 years.  Again, you are missing the point;  not every item in a Wal Mart is a loss leader and it doesn't have to be.  Loss leading (and price slashing for that matter) are functions of an organization's ability to absorb loss.  The first business to come up short on capital or credit loses.  It may cost the winner dearly for several years, but the result of crushed competition is the same. 

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

"but undercutting their prices so much that there's no longer any competition"

I agree.And then when there is no longer any competition, prices creep up, quality is allowed to decline, and even the physical building is allowed to fall apart.  It seems to be actually more cost savvy for WalMart to build new instead of fixing old.  The neighborhood gets stuck with the decaying blight of the abandoned big box and WalMart skips down the road.

And while it is perfectly legal for them do so, the point of all of these posts is that time and time again in Dallas, communities are sold-out by their "representatives" in a way that benefits developers, consultants, contractors, and vendors and not the long-term interests of the community.

And the developers, etc aren't fouling their own nests; when Dallas is nothing more than a few pockets of gated communities among a blighted wasteland, the developers will move to Vail. 

Edgar
Edgar

Not quite: Loss leading means selling below cost, not at cost or at razor-thin margins.  And yes, WalMart practices loss leading, too.  (So do a bunch of other stores of all shapes and sizes.)  But if every item in WalMart were a loss leader, WalMart would be unprofitable and it would be no more.

In  theory, WalMart could price a given item at a loss-leading price and put a small speecialty store out of business.  But it can't loss-lead its entire inventory.  It can't put every store out of business all by itself.

rubbercow
rubbercow

Precisely, it is called loss-leading.  It can only be accomplished by an organization large enough to absorb the loss.  It has nothing whatever to do with collusion. 

Edgar
Edgar

That would require collusion between WalMart and its myriad competitors.  Like it or not, on the whole, they're selling items at cost or a razor-thin margins.  Regardless, it doesn't change the point - people will still shop there because it's much, much cheaper. 

Lolotehe
Lolotehe

Where? I need someone to fix the soles on my Docs and that asshole at Mockingbird just wanted to talk crap about them, not fix them. 

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