Walmart will help, not hurt, Oxford

The critics can say what they will, but we doubt that the new Walmart in Lower Oxford will hurt business in the borough.

The opening preview party last week was upbeat and festive. The merchandise was varied and plentiful, and the produce in the food market was fresh and colorful.

With music from the Oxford High School band and $1,000-grants issued to local organizations, the management put just about everyone in a good mood and promised community support in the future.

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We are not so nave as to think the festivities and donations will continue in the great quantity they were on Aug. 14.

Still, given the wide variety of products and the opportunities from the other stores in Oxford Commons, theres a good indication that Oxford will benefit from the project, especially if the town merchants play there cards right.

For one thing, we asked a lot of people how they felt about the Walmart coming to town. To a person, they were delighted, but it wasnt because they hadnt shopped at a mega-store before. They were happy because they didnt have to drive far away to get to a Walmart. They previously had be going to North East, Md., and Paarkesburg to get their Walmart fix. Now they were going to stay around town.

For those who say that Walmart takes jobs away from the local folks, just ask the 300 new associates where they came from and what they were doing before they got the Walmart jobs.

Chances are, they will tell you they applied at the job center in Oxford, where Walmart made an effort to hire locally. Those new associates are happy to be earning paychecks and spending them locally now.

Also, anyone looking around Oxford now is not going to see much for sale that is competing with Walmart.

What Oxford has is small town charm, which can be used to advantage in creating shops that offer specialty items.

One has only to look at Kennett Square, situated just a mile from the nearest Walmart. There is Kennett, people shop for their household items and school supplies, but when it comes to upscale jewelry, elegant womens clothes, barbershops and restaurants, the borough is busier than ever.

Its good news as well that OMI -- Oxford Main Street Inc. -- is welcoming a new Main Street manager. He has said that he views Walmart as an opportunity, not a disadvantage.

Mr. Haradon has vowed to listen to the desires of the people and to respond in kind. He is a former member of the Kennett Square Main Street Board, and he has seen what makes a small town work alongside a big box market.

Already he has seen the early growth of the Oxford Arts Alliance, and he has sniffed around enough to see early seeds of growth that he intends to nurture.

Oxford has a special flavor all its own, and it has a population that is fond of its home town.

If Mr. Haradon is successful in nurturing special shops and elegant restaurants, if he continues to listen to the neighbors and cater to their wants, he can grow Oxford into a popular tourist and homeowner destination. And we believe he can.

People will come to stop at Walmart, but they will stick around for the nice little stores and the good food that charms them in the borough. Just watch.