With all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, we forgot to mark an interesting and Guelph-specific water mark. Back in November, it was five years since the Guelph Wal-Mart open. Ten years, thousands of protestors and millions of dollars in legal fees after the possibility was first mentioned, Wal-Mart indeed opened its doors, and the seas didn't boil and skies didn't all.
That's not a mark of approval on my part. I'm still not a believer in Wal-Mart or its philosophy, or its business practices, but I have to admit that having Wal-Mart in town has not been the end of the world. Guelph remains vital, shopping in Guelph remains vital and especially Downtown Guelph remains vital. As much against type as it is against the odds, Wal-Mart may be Goliath, but David still holds his own.
So what do we make of that fact? Well, I suppose we all seem a bit silly with all those petitions and all that fighting and clawing and getting entrenched in the "Not There" campaign like we did. That's not to say we were wrong. No sooner did Wal-Mart open that they petitioned the city to take over more space and open a grocery centre, like a conscious cancer knowing that it's infected you and can now get to the business of replicating and making you sicker. But again, it was much ado about nothing. Many really wanted the grocery section in Wal-Mart, especially east end residents who are underserved by grocery stores, but even a couple of years later, those same residents still say they're tremendously underserviced. So it goes.
The other odd thing is that despite all the dust kicked up, Wal-Mart quickly settled in as a part of our town. If I remember correctly, there was a protest on the day it opened, but because Wal-Mart opened its doors does that mean the sustainability and economic issues surrounding big boxes stores is over. Does it mean that we're giving up on Wal-Mart changing its business practices ever? Doubtful, but it's not like there's a lot of protest action at the corner of Woodlawn and Woolwich these days either.
So now what? I don't know. I think that the if Wal-Mart hasn't sunk the local economy yet, it won't. Despite the complaining about the attention given downtown, it has helped made sure that they can weather the arrival of Wal-Mart without the regular desolation and slow revitalization of the downtown of a lot of municipalities across North America. Goliath may have won, but David wasn't crushed. David got to live to fight another day, but decided not to fight and take up kite flying instead. And that maybe why the anniversary passed us by, we just don't care to fight anymore.