Gottschalks is being remodeled for new 73,000 square foot store
Walmart is coming to Eureka.
After months of speculation over the ‘silent treatment’ from Eureka City Hall concerning the unnamed “tenant” remodeling the ex-Gottschalks store at Bayshore Mall, Walmart’s public relations department swung into action to admit to what they’ve been doing there for the last few months.
“Walmart stores offer a quick and convenient shopping experience for customers who need household basics, prescriptions and general merchandise all at our everyday low prices,” Debbie Rood, Walmart’s northern California region general manager said in a press statement. “We are excited to bring this store closer to our customers and to join the Eureka business community as well as supporting local non-profits through our ongoing charitable giving.”
Walmart boasts that the store will provide approximately 200 jobs and the associated tax revenue for the local economy — unstated by their corporate PR department, naturally, is how many jobs in locally-owned small businesses will be lost as a result. A study by the Labor Center at the University of California, Berkeley found that Walmart’s entry into a metropolitan area eliminates similar jobs that pay about 18% more than Walmart. In those areas, the total average earnings of retail workers fell by 0.5 to 0.8%.
Corporate plans for the building at the northwest corner of Broadway and Truesdale Street include a pharmacy and supermarket, along with the typical merchandise of electronics, sporting goods, toys and apparel, most of which is shipped in from overseas manufacturers in countries such as China. Walmart spokepersons estimate their construction activities, which began with demolition and site preparation, will continue for approximately 12 to 15 months.
Although not typically associated with cutting-edge environmental activism, Walmart officials bragged about their use of energy-efficient technology to reduce water and electricity usage and minimize waste. These features include LED lighting, a computerized energy management system for their heating, ventilating and air conditioning units, and the use of recycled materials from the demolition of the former Gottschalks store.
A point of contention already brought up in Walmart’s opening propaganda salvo is the average wage they will be paying their workers. In this initial release, Walmart senior manager of public affairs and government relations Deborah Herron claims that its regular, full-time hourly ‘associates’ in California stores are paid $12.69 per hour. Yet according to IBIS World, an independent market research group, Walmart’s average sales associate makes only $8.81 per hour, scarcely above the state minimum wage.
The reaction of local government officials is unclear; the current majority on the Eureka City Council has pushed for increasing local employment by expanding retail services — although they had the Balloon Tract in mind given local ex-billionaire Rob Arkley’s plans for a Marina Center development to include a ‘big box’ retailer such as Home Depot. Eureka voters overwhelmingly rejected in 1999 a plan pushed by Walmart to re-zone the Balloon Tract in their favor.
Beyond the halls of government, the local ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement has already targeted the potential Walmart development as a battle they’re itching to fight. A march on ‘Black Friday’ from the county courthouse to Bayshore Mall apparently fizzled, while others have called for the renewal of a proposed ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage in Eureka to $10 an hour or higher to deter big box development at sub-living wage levels.