Is there anyone in the civilized world who is not familiar with Walmart? I, like many others, was curious to find out how the company got its start. In 1950, Sam Walton opened a 5&10 Store (a.k.a. Five and Dime) in the small Arkansas town of Bentonville. It wasn’t long before he expanded the business by purchasing the adjoining barber shop – and he was on his way to big success. When I first entered the store, I saw a display of aprons that were the kind my grandmother wore. Other merchandise from that same era was interspersed with souvenir and gift items.
The building now serves as the Walmart Visitors Center where fans can discover the full story of Sam Walton and Walmart. On the self-guided tour, you can take in as much or as little of the exhibits as you want, but don’t miss his old office and his wife’s wedding gown.
At the end of the exhibition, a door leads into Sparks Cafe, a mid-20th century soda shop. You won’t see the Fonz, but you can step up to an old-fashioned marble counter, or sit in a plastic-covered booth. Take in the wall telephone, posters and other vintage decorations while sipping a fountain drink or munching on a fresh-scooped ice cream cone.
When you exit, take time to walk through and around the idyllic square to get the feel of small town Americana. It gave me a sense of peace and déjà vu.