Wal-Mart's Impact

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The rumor began circulating as soon as talk of a new Wal-Mart in Belvidere began that the retail giant would run smaller, locally owned shops out of business. It's been about two months since the Belvidere Wal-Mart opened its doors, so what impact has the Supercenter had on local businesses?

Tony Dal Pra's family business sits only about a mile away from the new Wal-Mart in Belvidere. He's been crossing his fingers that the retail giant wouldn't roll back his business.

"We've heard and seen a lot of statistics about what happens when Wal-Mart comes to town," says Dal Pra.

Dal Pra says he's seen a small drop in sales, but by no means is he concerned; that's thanks in part to customers like Doris Hays, who's been shopping faithfully at Pacemaker for 25 years.

"I find the prices are good. I've shopped around and I always come back here," says Hays, while loading her car trunk with groceries.

Katie Hernandez manages a small Mexican specialty shop downtown. She too was concerned about competing with a large business.

"Everybody felt they were going to be evicted when Wal-Mart came," says Hernandez.

But it's actually been quite the opposite for La Canasta. Business has been so good lately that the store has had to expand to keep up.

Several other area businesses say they haven't felt the crunch from Wal-Mart's presence either, mainly, they say, because of the strong relationships they have with customers.

"We have a very close relationship with a lot of our customers and we really want them to feel it's a family," adds Dal Pra.

"I feel Wal-Mart doesn't have what we have and I feel we cater to our customers differently," says Hernandez.

And now that their new neighbor is beginning to settle in, both Hernandez and Dal Pra say they feel much more confident dealing with a little friendly competition.

The Belvidere Chamber of Commerce and Mayor Fred Brereton say they haven't heard of any area businesses having problems because of Wal-Mart. Mayor Brereton believes the superstore is fitting in to the community nicely.