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Sam and Helen Walton operated a Ben Franklin Variety store in Newport, AR, beginning in 1945 after Sam returned home from WWII. The store grew, and the landlord refused to renew the lease at the decade’s end, so Walton had to find a new location. Walton found a variety store owner in Bentonville willing to sell, and the family relocated to the small northwest Arkansas town. They opened the store as a Ben Franklin-type variety store under the name Walton 5 & 10. Over the next 15 years, the brothers operated Ben Franklin and Walton Family Centers in 15 locations.
It was evident that the discount model resonated with customers, and his opportunities to continue to expand with Ben Franklin store franchises were diminishing. So, in 1962, the first Walmart Discount Center opened in Rogers. Two more followed in Harrison and Springdale, then expansion to Oklahoma and Missouri. A new type of shopping experience was born.
Walton worked with a limitless possibility mindset and remained committed to lowering the cost of living and treating all people fairly.
Today, the original site of the Walton 5 & 10 is now a Visitor Center and Museum for the Fortune 100 company that changed the trajectory of a small Arkansas town. A big vision driven by bottom-line prices and treating people right created opportunities beyond Sam Walton’s early dreams.
One of the best parts of the visit is to see early items sold in the 1950s era Walton 5 & 10 store, office supplies and hats bearing the early Wal-Mart logos, and Mr. Sam’s biography, “Made in America.”
Look down and see if you can notice the colors don’t match. Sam always knew saving money and being frugal meant he could help his customers save money, even if it meant using “as is” tiles to cover his floors.
Awarded March 17, 1992, by President George H. W. Bush in Bentonville, AR, only a few weeks before he passed away; the award recognized how the Waltons worked hard to earn money and equally as hard at sharing it with others.
Sir, you are generous and genuine. Tireless and Tenacious. And, you took risks that helped our country grow vigorous and strong. Always bring out the best in people.” – President George H.W. Bush
Produced initially in Camden in 1940, the Grapette soft drink and subsequent flavors exchanged hands and exclusivity over the years. Sam Walton was a big fan of Grapette, and after a discovery meeting at the Home Office, he wanted exclusive rights to the product line. Following Sam’s death, David Glass, his friend and Walmart’s CEO, changed the name of their core self-label products to Sam’s Choice, including soft drinks. Sam’s Choice grape and orange flavors met great success, and in 2000 the company holding the Grapette name patent was open to selling rights to the brand for the first time in three decades. Today, Walmart has exclusive rights to the Grapette and Orangette name, and you can purchase a bottle in the museum’s storefront.
A 1979 Ford F150 serves as a reminder of Sam’s humble nature and what he expected from his company and associates. Ol’ Roy, Sam’s bird dog, was often seen in the front seat of his personal truck that he often drove to stores instead of a company vehicle. Urban legend shares that touching the driver’s door handle “imparts frugality.”
What I love most about this museum experience are the displays where children can open drawers, pull levers and look at lights on their level. While they may not be able to read, these experiences help them learn and interact with the Walmart story.
The office held by Sam Walton was carefully cataloged, photographed, and dismantled just as it was the last time he left it, including the paneling and carpet. Relics and contents were moved and reconstructed for visitors to see a behind-the-curtain view of his personal space. Many people note that the chair is not as worn as some might expect, and his desk is covered with files and papers he rarely attended to because he was out in stores interacting with associates and customers.
Sam is known for going against the current and making waves as he tried new things. These guiding principles offered guardrails for growth, but he was never afraid to break a few rules along the way. Commit. Share. Motivate. Communicate. Appreciate. Celebrate. Listen. Exceed. Control. Swim.
No visit to the Walmart Museum is complete without stopping for a scoop of ice cream at the Spark Cafe. Mr. Sam’s favorite was always butter pecan, and he was known to always have some available for tough days at the office. Yarnell’s ice cream flavors are offered for single scoops, sundaes or shakes. Spark Cream is a favorite flavor of kids and adults alike; a unique flavor served only in this cafe.
Scott Family Amazeum – Walmart store play interaction where children can experience different roles working in a Walmart store, including driving a semi-truck for distribution.
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