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June 18, 2004


The Terminator Cycle

Here’s a rather inspiring story from a few days ago that caught my eye. One of the major issues with Wal-Mart and similar gigantic chains is their slash-and-burn business model of clearing out an area to build a superstore, then building a supermegagigantastore down the road a few years later and closing the first one down, leaving vacant “big box” buildings sitting on enormous empty lots. In the Dallas/Ft. Worth area alone, that accounts for 4.5 million square feet of abandoned retail space, mostly in chunks of 30,000 square feet or more.

Some of this space can be rented out to discount chains such as TJ Maxx or Marshalls, and in other cases a Home Depot will just demolish the building and start from the ground up. But what happens to the vacant buildings in undesirable (meaning, lower-income or ethnic) neighborhoods?

Community organizer Carlos Quintanilla’s solution was to take over Wal-Mart’s lease on a vacant store outside of Dallas. Paying only $2.50 per square foot, Quintanilla rented out sections of the building to various merchants, turning it into a Mexican-style market with over 110 vendors, restaurants, and an event space. His next project is to take over an abandoned Sam’s Club in another Dallas suburb, and he hopes to create similar spaces in Hispanic areas in Las Vegas and Chicago.

It’s just like Terminator! Humanity greedily creates massive superchains, they destroy themselves – and the community-based businesses rise again.

categories: Business
posted by Emily at 12:27 PM | #