Besides being mayor of Byram, Richard White is also a small businessman, operating a tire and auto shop in the young suburban city south of Jackson.
But recently announced plans for Walmart to build a new store in Byram doesn’t overly concern him about his business. Despite the normal anti-Walmart grumblings in the background, he believes it’s a good thing for his town.
“I’ve been in this location 21 years,” said the owner of Richard’s Front Wheel Drive and Automotive and Richard’s Auto Sales, about 1 1/2 miles from the Walmart site. “You can just about see the place from my business.
“I felt like it was going to happen,” he said. “We’ve got a lot going on here. My business does good.”
Walmart’s upcoming arrival in Byram, announced last month, shouldn’t have been a complete surprise, given the young city’s location and growing population as well as the world’s largest retailer’s ever-growing number of stores, which includes a store that opened this month in Canton.
The planned 185,000-square-foot Walmart Supercenter will be built using the corporation’s newest designs at the southwest corner of Siwell Road and Terry Road on a 68-acre site at Byram Town Center.
The Byram store will add to Walmart’s presence nearby: There are stores operating on U.S. 49 and Mississippi 18, each about 10 miles on either side of the Byram site.
“Walmart continues to focus on seeking better ways to serve our loyal customers,” the company said in a statement last month regarding the site evaluation being done at the Byram location.
“This holds true in growing communities such as Byram, where access and convenience to a full assortment of quality merchandise and healthy affordable grocery options are important to our customers.”
White said he’s had four meetings with Walmart representatives and that preliminary surveying and core sampling work have been done at the site in the last few weeks. “Probably in another month or two we’ll have a groundbreaking, I’m hoping,” he said.
“It’s going to happen.”
White knows his fingers-crossed attitude about Walmart coming to town may not be shared by those who fear the big box competition.
“You can do all the research on this,” he said. “If a small business owner is doing what he or she is supposed to be doing, it’s not likely people are going to stop doing business with somebody giving them a decent deal with good service. They’re not going to change.”
White has heard about some complaints on Facebook about the new Walmart but said he has had “zero” pushback directly from local critics.
“Not one person has approached me. Not one. And I get approached about a lot, but that’s not one of them.”
Vowell’s Marketplace, across from where Walmart will be built, has been open in Byram at 5777 Terry Road since October 2005.
Todd Vowell, president of company, said he wasn’t surprised by Walmart’s interest in Byram.
“We knew before it hit the papers they were evaluating the site,” he said. “We’ve assumed since 2005 we would have them as a neighbor.”
The Vowell family has been in the grocery business since 1945 and has 19 stores in Mississippi and Alabama operating under the banners Vowell’s Marketplace, Cash Saver by Vowell’s and Vowell’s Fresh Market. Several are in cities including Jackson with a Walmart nearby.
“Our main focus is on the residents of any given community,” Vowell said.
“Our employees take great pride in providing high levels of customer service and competitive pricing to their neighbors and friends that patronize our store.”
White said Walmart is just the start for Byram, which he said already has a thriving industrial park.
“Once you have a big box, it will draw other things,” he said.
He expects the new Walmart to attract the usual “side stores that follow them around” like a dollar store and sporting goods store to be developed nearby. And he’s been contacted by a bagel shop and a couple of restaurants looking at possible locations in the city.
“I’m meeting with some other companies next week,” he said.
White said Walmart is helping to attract the new prospects.
“What it’s done is open up the doorway,” he said. “I thought it was going to break the ice. I’m really excited.”
BEFORE YOU GO…
… we’d like to ask for your support. More people are reading the Mississippi Business Journal than ever before, but advertising revenues for all conventional media are falling fast. Unlike many, we do not use a pay wall, because we want to continue providing Mississippi’s most comprehensive business news each and every day. But that takes time, money and hard work. We do it because it is important to us … and equally important to you, if you value the flow of trustworthy news and information which have always kept America strong and free for more than 200 years.
If those who read our content will help fund it, we can continue to bring you the very best in news and information. Please consider joining us as a valued member, or if you prefer, make a one-time contribution.Click for more info