By Jonathan Wright
Has it really been 18 years?
Check the year it happened; subtract it from 2013.
Yes, sure enough—18 years. That’s a long time.
Or maybe not. Time flies, you know.
Eighteen years ago, in the late summer weeks of 1995, the complexion of Lewisburg was to change markedly, particularly on its north side just south of I-64. The nondescript area on the east side of U.S. 219 had for decades been expansive pastureland filled with grass, trees, and occasional livestock.
Now it was the home of a massive new building destined to change the Greenbrier Valley’s shopping options significantly.
Wal-Mart had arrived in Lewisburg.
While some tried to discourage the discount giant from setting down roots here and assumedly blowing small retailers into oblivion, organizers were somehow able to jump through all the regulatory hoops and see it through to reality.
Big-city shopping was now part of the local commercial options to hundreds of consumers in this county and several surrounding counties—and continues to be so today, 18 years later.
I still poignantly remember my first visit to the megastore on its first day of business. To state it simply and precisely, it was, well—overwhelming. The size of the place was certainly nothing I had not seen before—just not here.
I remember walking around the cavernous store and repeatedly thinking, “I can’t believe I’m in Lewisburg.”
Somehow this glorious and fascinatingly “big-city” shopping experience just didn’t seem possible in diminutive Lewisburg.
Now, of course, it seems completely normal, an indispensable part of everyday life around here. We’re all used to shopping in large discount stores here now, whether it be Magic Mart, K-Mart, or Wal-Mart. We expect them to be large and full of a wide variety of goods to select from.
Of course, we walk our legs off in these huge stores in the process, but that’s usually a small price to pay to have access to what we want when we want it. The only problem is when we’re in a hurry or when the store personnel have switched the locations of certain lines of items.
And as big as our Lewisburg Wal-Mart seems to us, much larger ones exist now. Just take a look at the one in Summersville the next time you’re there—its size is nothing less than mind-boggling.
Eighteen years. Wal-Mart has come of age. Although some of us wistfully look back on earlier times with smaller, more intimate stores, there’s one thing we all recognize: there’s no turning back now.