by Lance Turner
Posted 12/17/2013 10:49 am
Updated 3 months ago
After threatening not to build after the city council attempted to pass a $12.50 minimum wage, Wal-Mart has opened its first two stores inside Washington D.C., and "Wal-Mart Effect" author Charles Fishman was there for one of the grand openings.
There, Fishman finds a small, stylish store providing convenience to local shoppers.
"As always with characters at the center of controversies, it’s revealing to meet the main player -- in this case, the store itself -- firsthand," Fishman writes. "Even after you've been in hundreds of Walmarts, No. 5968 proved Walmart, the company, is constantly adapting."
Indeed, this D.C. Wal-Mart doesn't look like other Wal-Marts, as Fishman notes for Fast Company:
It’s chocolate brown; not a hint of Supercenter-gray. The front is a series of urban-style brick arches, capped by a two-story smoked-glass atrium. The parking is underground. The loading dock is tucked in back. There is no sign-on-a-stick. For the grand opening, a single yellow balloon floated above the store.
I drove into the underground parking garage and entered the store from below. Parking is free (a lot of stores in D.C., including an urban Target two miles south, charge for parking), and there are 349 spaces. Even on opening day, there were spots open.
You rise on escalators into a wide vestibule along the front of the store, a nice, weatherproof place to collect your belongings and purchases before stepping out onto the street. The actual entrance to the store has brick arches that mirror those out front.
But the feature that stopped me in my tracks as I stepped into the store was something I’ve never seen in any Walmart before: Windows.
It's all a part of Wal-Mart's continuing evolution, Fishman says. A 3D tour video of the store, included below, is certainly impressive, at least to someone used to the giant, windowless, blue-gray boxes scattered across the South.