Business is booming in Grove City’s Stringtown Road shopping center, thanks to the Walmart Supercenter anchor.
Kohls and Hobby Lobby will join the center this fall to finish the project that began in 2003.
Ten years ago, the one-mile Stringtown Road stretch was nothing but cornfields, Grove City development director Chuck Boso said.
Today, Walmart is surrounded by dozens of retailers and restaurant chains. The shopping center has created more than 1,000 jobs and earned the city $2.8 million in tax revenues in 2010.
Revenue comes to Grove City because the shopping center is part of a tax increment financing (TIF) district, where the increase in property values each year is paid to the city, he said.
The TIF payments are used to pay off the initial $17 million in bonds the city took out to prepare roads and lots for the shopping center, Boso said. Walmart is the biggest TIF contributor, he said. The company pays about $556,000 per year to the city.
Boso said much of the “leftovers” go to the South-Western City School district, which last year received more than $1.5 million.
Walmart also supports the community through charity, Boso said.
“They have numerous fundraising events for various causes here,” he said. “Anything from the Buckeye Ranch to Children’s Hospital to donating time on parks projects. They’ve been very good to the community.”
The chain also continues to draw retailers to the area, which Boso said has had nothing but a positive effect.
“I’ve lived (in Grove City) since 1956, and there was always a desire to have additional shopping choices,” he said. “The center has been a big positive in terms of retail choices for the community and it also serves as a regional center. We get people from Circleville, Mount Sterling and even the London area.”
More shopping brings more traffic, but Boso said the number of accidents in the Stringtown Road area has remained relatively low.
Population, however, has soared. According to the 2010 census, Grove City has gained about 8,500 residents, second only to Dublin in the central Ohio area.
“We must be doing something right or we wouldn’t have such a large increase,” Boso said.
Some Grove City residents disagree.
Tammy Patton, who has lived in Grove City for 20 years, said she was upset when construction of the Walmart began and her early experiences in the store only made her feel worse. Now Patton prefers to shop at the original Stringtown Road retail choice: Kmart.
“Even if Walmart had a 90-percent-off sale, I would still come (to Kmart),” she said. “The people here are so sweet and they’re always happy to help you.”
Kmart store manager Russ Kurtz said there is a “certain loyalty” in many of his customers. Some are anti-Walmart and some have simply been shopping at Kmart all their lives, he said.
Because of customer loyalty, Kurtz said the competition hasn’t greatly affected business.
“The competition is good,” he said. “You just have to find your niche. We started doing layaway, which Walmart doesn’t do, and our sales skyrocketed.”
Still, Walmart's packed parking lot shows it is the choice of thousands of shoppers, like Grove City resident Dave Pendleton.
“It’s all about the prices and convenience,” he said.