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CK businesses din't fret NK Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart.

The name thrills many consumers looking for rock-bottom prices, and terrifies some business owners fearing they’ll be put out of business. Conservative members of a community fear instant urbanization. Liberals hate the fact that Wal-Mart workers are usually non-union.

Such were the arguments raging in recent public meetings in Poulsbo, now that it’s known a Wal-Mart store is planned for the Olhava development.

But what do Silverdale businesses think? With the existing Wal-Marts in South Kitsap and East Bremerton, will the planned 150,000-square-foot mega-store in North Kitsap put the squeeze on CK, its stores and the Kitsap Mall?

“Well, they’re a major competitor,” said Scott Hayes, manager of the Silverdale Target store. “What are you going to do?”

He went on to say, though, that competition can be a good thing. It can sharpen a business and help owners focus on what they do best.

“We try to attract a different customer base,” Hayes said. “Actually, I don’t have strong feelings either way.” But “I do feel like (our customer base) is above a Wal-Mart or Kmart, and below the Bon Marche. Compared to Wal-Mart, Target’s a much better company. I think we’ll be OK.”

He drove to the proposed site in North Kitsap and feels the mileage is about twice that of driving from Central Kitsap to East Bremerton.

“Any customers we might lose, we’ve already lost to Bremerton. And CK customers will tire of driving to Poulsbo to try-out the new store, and we’ll get those customers back.”

He said if the North Kitsap Wal-Mart acts as landlord to smaller, specialty stores — to further monopolize the market — that could hurt Target, somewhat.

He added that the tax base in North Kitsap will certainly benefit with a giant store like Wal-Mart.

“And that’ll be good for the community” at large, he said.

Stacey Ames, marketing manager for the Kitsap Mall, said she didn’t fear the Wal-Mart planned for west of Poulsbo in the Olhava development complex.

“Will we be squeezed? Not really. We’ve always thought a Wal-Mart would appear there someday. It came as no surprise,” she said.

“Obviously it’s competition for us, and there’ll be some impact at first — because it’s new and different. But in the long run, I think it’ll pull people from Bainbridge Island... and if they’ve driven that far, they’ll think, ‘Why not go all the way?’ and come to the Kitsap Mall to take advantage of the greater variety of goods,” in stores large and small.

The manager of another major department store in Silverdale, who declined to identify himself or his store, did comment they were not worried about the new Wal-Mart.

“It’s a different clientele base,” he said. “A different kind of shopper. I don’t think it’s competition at all. Fred Meyer (in East Bremerton), Sears or Target (both Silverdale) are bigger concerns for us.”

Laura McDowell, a spokeswoman at TJ Maxx headquarters in Framingham, Mass., said they’re not worried about Wal-Mart.

“We cater to a different clientele. We sell designer merchandise at an amazing price. We’re closer to a high-end clothing store,” she said.

“Wal-Mart’s already in our area and a positive contributing member of our community,” said Sam Granato, executive director of the Silverdale Chamber of Commerce, referring to the Wal-Mart in East Bremerton. “I think each (store) has its niche” and with the Wal-Mart in East Bremerton, there’s already been enough time for things to settle out.

“In the long run, I don’t think the new store in Poulsbo will hurt any of us in Silverdale. It may hurt smaller businesses in North Kitsap more than us.”

Other stores solicited for comment included J.C. Penney, Sears, Mervyn’s, The Bon Marche and Ross, but they did not return messages by deadline.

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