Wal-Mart's folksy, baseball cap-wearing founder, Sam Walton, so despised public displays of wealth that, after his death in 1992, the billionaire's heirs decided to enshrine his prized possession, a battered Ford pickup, behind a simple storefront on the town square here.Truly astonishing. It's pretty much everything I hate about America in one small town. "A swanky oasis in the middle of the Ozarks"--can you say "hell on earth"?
But Walton's spirit of restraint is harder to find next door to the museum at Fusion, a new fine-arts gallery that sells $2,500 abstract paintings and $1,200 urns. Or at the nearby Landers Hummer dealership, crowded with $62,000 sport-utility trucks. Or inside Shadow Valley, a gated community where four-bedroom houses fetch $1 million.
The hard-nosed retailing tactics of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. have transformed communities across the country, but none more so than the one in its own back yard. Benton County, once a sedate backwater, is quickly morphing into a swanky oasis in the middle of the Ozarks.
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
The worst of all possible worlds