So a neighbor told me a Walmart grocery store is replacing the Mercado Del Pueblo in the Tucker Square shopping center. I hadn't even noticed the Latin grocery had closed, but, sure enough, a drive-by confirmed that the building, along with the former Tucker Billiards site, has been fenced off for remodeling. Still, I was surprised and somewhat skeptical that a Walmart is moving in.
The Mercado Del Pueblo replaced a Wayfield Foods just a few years ago, and given the relative proximity of Kroger (two stores within five miles) and the recently remodeled Walmart Supercenter at Cofer Crossing, plus a nearby Food Depot, I figured this spot would be doomed to long-term vacancy, leading to further decay for the already dilapidated shopping center. But a call to Habif Properties, who manages the property, verified that Walmart is coming.
Tucker Square is definitely showing its age. Check out the font on the Wooden Nickel sign. I’m fairly sure the dive bar is the sole original tenant—and, by the way, for a dive bar the Nickel is pretty damn decent. Sort of miraculous that it’s still standing after thirty years, really, when so much else around there has come and gone.
The property has struggled to fill vacancies in recent years. Along with the departure of Wayfield Foods, it lost a Mellow Mushroom and a Screenplay Video about five years ago. Family Dollar, Subway and Little Caesars keep one side of the strip hopping, but with no anchor grocery store, Tucker Square looks as desolate as all the other obsolete, suburban shopping centers.
A Walmart Neighborhood Market is certain to change that. For those unfamiliar with the Walmart Market concept, it's the retail behemoth's version of a neighborhood grocery store. The stores are usually around 40,000 square feet in size, employ from 80 to 100 people and offer pharmacy and photo processing services. As best as I can determine, none have yet opened in Georgia, but locations in Lawrenceville and Snellville are scheduled to open in June and August, respectively. The Tucker Square location is scheduled for a December or January opening.
Surprisingly, I haven't heard about any neighborhood opposition to this opening. Walmart typically brings out the NIMBY in all of us; look at the uproar over the proposed location in Decatur's Suburban Plaza. Perhaps a modestly sized grocery store is less off-putting to folks than the massive Supercenters the discounter is known for opening in the face of fierce neighborhood opposition. An article in the Los Angeles Times last year pointed out that Walmart avoids contentious city planning reviews when they open these relatively smaller projects in vacant storefronts already zoned for retail.
I'm ambivalent. Tucker Square is at the intersection of Chamblee-Tucker, South Norcross-Tucker and Britt Roads, an already a congested area that is bound to attract more traffic when a Walmart location—even a smaller one—is open for business. On the other hand, this property is an uninviting eyesore that will deteriorate further without an anchor store. Maybe the addition will lure new businesses to the shopping center, which is about one-third vacant. The parking lot is an adventure, like an asphalt moonscape; surely, it will be repaved for a big name tenant like Walmart. And for those who live nearby and don't drive, the continued presence of a grocery store within walking distance is sure to be welcome news. Then there are the additional jobs, of course.
At least in this case, it doesn’t appear that jobs will be lost elsewhere because of Walmart’s arrival. I try look at these things from a utilitarian viewpoint. I'm not a fan of Walmart, but this location could be a net positive for the neighborhood.