Ellisville Small Businesses Mixed Over Pending Walmart

Employees at Westgate Animal Hospital and a Valvoline service center located within the project site said they are not aware of any timeline for the project, which will ultimately replace those businesses.

Small business owners and employees throughout the Ellisville area Monday said the benefits of increased traffic due to a newly permitted Walmart might be outweighed by competitive pricing.

A mix of enthusiasm for potentially revitalized business and concern about a negative impact on competing stores comes less than a week after the constructing a Walmart southwest of Manchester and Kiefer Creek roads.

“Overall, I’m not a proponent of Walmart," said Jim Randall, owner of in Ballwin, located less than a mile east of the . "Walmart and small business don’t go real well together.”

Randall said part of his concern is the company’s relationship with its vendors, which sometimes puts high demand on its business partners regarding pricing and output.

"They keep demanding price decreases year after year after year, and while you might achieve some economy of scale, they ultimately squeeze you.”

“That being said, they don’t provide barbecue restaurants and they’re going to increase foot traffic up and down Manchester Road, which means I may benefit from the time that they’re there as a restaurant,” Randall said. “I’m kind of torn as you see. It could be good for me but I don’t think it’s good in general for small business.”

have cited its impact on residents that will be displaced by the development, in addition to objections that the project was permitted with a tax increment financing or TIF district, which will allow half of all new sales tax generated within the district to be given to the Sansone Group, the project's developer. According to state law, money in the TIF fund must be used for infrastructure improvements to the surrounding area.

Proponents of the project, meanwhile, including former mayor and current City Council member Matt Pirrello said Walmart should create roughly $500,000 annually for the city, and should help stave off any due to increased operation costs.

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Randall said that because many of the 37 parcels designated for the project are occupied by shuttered businesses, including four vacant auto dealerships, the space creates little revenue for the city.

“It’s abandoned … with weeds growing out of the properties which are not doing the any good whatsoever,” Randall said. “It’s a tremendous eyesore. It makes it look like a ghost town.”

Among the active commercial structures at the site are Clarkchester Apartments, a 100-unit apartment complex, along with , Valvoline auto and Westgate Animal Hospital.

Kateri Harris, Office Manager at Westgate Animal Hospital, expressed frustration about a lack of communication between the City of Ellisville and her employer regarding the project, which officially was approved Wednesday.

“We didn’t know they were coming to take soil samples. We didn’t know they were coming spray paint our driveway. We didn’t know that there was going to be a piece of equipment so large that it was going to fill up our entire driveway,” said Harris, who added that the hospital is not aware of any timeline for the project. “We would love some hard, concrete details.”

Westgate clients such as Ellisville resident Karen Freeman, 48, said that regardless of when the project advances, parting ways with the hospital after more than 30 years of business will be difficult.

“It’s like a small town, and that’s what I hate seeing go,” Freeman said of her family’s relationship with the hospital, which has treated her family’s pets for more than a generation.

John Mertrice, an assistant manager with Valvoline auto service, said the fate of the employees at his store is uncertain.

“I don’t really know what they’re going to do with us, if they’re going to build another store … I really don’t know.”

On the other side of Manchester Road at , manager Derek Coffman said having construction workers nearby while the store is being built should be a boon for his business.

“That’s definitely going to have an impact because they’re going to have to eat somewhere,” Coffman said. “With it being essentially across the street from us, that’s definitely going to help us out.”

Coffman said the addition of a Walmart also should increase traffic, which should enhance business once the retailer opens.

“I think it will help for sure,” Coffman said. “But there’s only one way to find out—to wait.”

Suzanne Gundlach May 08, 2012 at 01:56 PM
Has the city of Ellisville offered financial incentives to assist with relocation of the small businesses being displaced by the Walmart/TIF project?
Chase Castle May 08, 2012 at 02:03 PM
I believe any compensation for the aforementioned businesses is more likely to come from the developers than the city. Regardless, it's a good question and we'll keep you posted when we learn those details.
Michael Rhodes May 08, 2012 at 03:37 PM
I would doubt it as those business owners will be selling their property. Now, on the other hand is the city offering any incentives for those business to reopen elsewhere in Ellisville might be the intended question. That would be a two edged sword. Would be nice for Ellisville to try and keep them here while at the same time they would be doing what the oppenants to Walmart state shouldn't be done and why they are against the developement; providing tax dollars to private business.
Michael Rhodes May 08, 2012 at 03:39 PM
Found this choice of words interesting: "Small business owners and employees throughout the Ellisville area Monday said the benefits of increased traffic due to a newly permitted Walmart might be outweighed by competitive pricing." As a consumer I want competitive pricing. As a business owner I wouldn't want it.
David Furlong May 08, 2012 at 04:13 PM
We are just happy that Westgate Animal Hospital will be continuing their wonderful care of their patients when they join Clayton Road Veterinary Hospital, another hospital that has been practicing high quality medicine in the West County area (for the past 40 years)!!
Michael Rhodes May 08, 2012 at 05:05 PM
Good to hear.
E. Schmidt May 08, 2012 at 08:31 PM
In the article Jim Randall said-- >>>“Overall, I’m not a proponent of Walmart," said Jim Randall, owner of ASAP BBQ in Ballwin, located less than a mile east of the Walmart project site. "Walmart and small business don’t go real well together.”<<< I feel sorry for the guy. Wal-Marts sell BBQ in their delis. They also now sell grab and go style hot food items like popcorn chicken near their cash registers at lunch time and have soda fountains near the entrances. Some restaurant owners think they might get increased business because of Wal-Mart. They are likely to get increased competition and put out of business if they are BBQ, fast food or sandwich shop style places. They are in the same boat with retailers. See below. >>>A study of Chicago in 2009 shows that businesses within one mile of a Walmart Supercenter have a 25% chance of shuttering in the first year, and a 40% chance of shuttering by the second year, when compared with stores farther than one mile from the Supercenter.<<< http://makingchangeatwalmart.org/files/2012/03/SmallBusiness.pdf This website also has a note about a study done in St. Louis on small businesses.
Kel May 09, 2012 at 01:51 AM
While I appreciate that Wal-Mart sells BBQ in their deli, you cannot even begin to compare the Wal-Mart BBQ to that of ASAP. If the local businesses are that good, local people will still frequent them. My hope is that some of the struggling businesses that I love will be boosted due to the increase in traffic. If people are so worried about Wal-Mart putting our smaller businesses out of business, instead of creating more drama, why don't you make a campaign to build up support for the local businesses?
Michael Rhodes May 09, 2012 at 02:42 AM
ES: Do you know who did the study? I tried to get to the link, but my virus protection recommended not loading the site.
K James May 09, 2012 at 03:16 AM
Lets not forget our own Barney's BBQ. Opening for the season on weekends soooo soon!!!! Cant wait!!!! An Ellisville treasure. Especially their pulled pork and Brenda's famous pumpkin cake. YUMMMMMMMMM!!!!
Kel May 09, 2012 at 04:02 AM
You are correct!! ASAP can't come close to their ribs or BBQ beans, although their mac n cheese and chili are delish. I forget that ASAP is in Ballwin just past the Ellisville lines.
Jimmy C May 09, 2012 at 05:19 AM
Ellisville Council!!!!!!!!!!! you agreed to waste taxpayers money in the amount of 15 million to bring this crap (click link below) to our town and dispose of our people. How much is it going to cost Ellisville to support our newly non elected leader James Sansone and all the variances and legal bills that comes with it. Sansone isn't stupid, you are. He plans on landing the corner deal, too. Businesses that already are already on his roster of clients that well with cheap leases at the tax payers expense. He will ask for another TIF, CDD, TDD, to develop the corner lots. He is still in shock that it was passed... or is he? The guy to the Mayor's right at the meeting and he didn't even look at the people who presented. http://thechive.com/2010/07/07/attention-wal-mart-shoppers-look-at-yourself-35-photos/
E. Schmidt May 09, 2012 at 11:49 AM
Michael Rhodes-- Your virus protection is probably being over cautious because it is a pdf document. This is the citation for the Chicago study-- Julie Davis, David Merriman, Lucia Samayoa, Brian Flanagan,Ron Baiman, and Joe Persky. “The Impact of an Urban Wal-Mart Store on Area Businesses: An Evaluation of One Chicago Neighborhood’s Experience”, Center for Urban Research and Learning, Loyola University. December 2009, pg 17. The St. Louis study-- . “An Assessment of the Effectiveness and Fiscal Impacts of the Use of Local Development Incentives in the St. Louis Region” East-West Gateway Council of Governments; Jan 2011
E. Schmidt May 09, 2012 at 11:53 AM
Kel-- >>>If people are so worried about Wal-Mart putting our smaller businesses out of business, instead of creating more drama, why don't you make a campaign to build up support for the local businesses?<<< I don't have to create drama. I have plenty of real life drama, thanks. I have my hand full with trying to keep 250 people from being thrown out on the street with only a $1,000 in their pockets. Instead of suggesting that other people do things, why don't you do them yourself?
K James May 09, 2012 at 11:57 AM
Jimmy C- your intolerence is frightening. I clicked on your link and was quite frankly saddened that someone actually took the time to put together a piece of garbage like that.
E. Schmidt May 09, 2012 at 01:03 PM
Jimmy C-- >>>The guy to the Mayor's right at the meeting and he didn't even look at the people who presented. <<< I thought that was interesting. Few of them would look the speakers against the Sanson Walmart TIF Plan in the eye. Some of the CC members were looking away, visibly shaking, etc...and one way crying. The visual tells and tics were amazing. Someone mentioned to me it looked like a bad parody of the "Last Supper." The double entendre was not lost on me. I had to laugh a little given that recall fever is in the air...but, is it was more pathetic than funny when you consider the taxpayers of Ellisville, three small business and 250 residents of Clarkchester Apartments were on the menu.
Michael Rhodes May 09, 2012 at 01:22 PM
Thanks. Yes, we have very strict virus protection software. It won't allow me to even get to the website. I should be able to locate based on the study name.
K James May 09, 2012 at 03:55 PM
Liz; You do know that the council members are not ALLOWED to respond to those speaking during public comments. Having set on that side of the world for a brief moment, it is so frustrating not to be able to respond, it is uncomfortable. But you have to sit there and just listen. Not an easy thing to do. I believe that Ellisville is an awesome place to live. Our parks, our 4th of July, our city staff who are very helpful and hard working. Someone said once on this thing that Ellisville is not a community. I have to beg to differ, we are a community, if you take the time to get involved, there is very much a community feel. Sitting in Bluebird on thursday evenings enjoying the summer free concert series, is just wonderful. Barney's BBQ is a summer tradition. Bluebird day camps, swim teams for the kids, fall festivals,Jamie at McDonalds is a treasure, the Ellisville ball fields all summer long watching the kids play, the miles of walking trails to enjoy, the community playgrounds where our children play with their neighbors, we are a community. I continue to be in awe of your tenacity. I have been personally attacked on this thing several times posting my opinions, and it is uncomfortable for me to respond, but I do want you to know that while I don't share your opinion, I do have continued respect for you and your opinions.
Suzanne Gundlach May 09, 2012 at 06:27 PM
K James, I echo your sentiments -- while these very important (and for many, personal) issues can be divisive, at this time we are all still neighbors and residents of the same city. I encourage everyone, regardless of your personal opinion, to treat each other with respect. Have conversations, learn more about what is going on with all sides, dig into the details and understand and what the impacts will be...but do so with respect.
mike k May 10, 2012 at 03:59 AM
Jimmy C you are a disguisting human being,


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