Wiggins Merchants Optimistic About Wal-Mart Arrival

America's retail giant is about to impact Wiggins.

Construction is well underway on a Wal-Mart Super Center just off Highway 49 in Stone County. Although the store won't open for several months, local retailers are already wondering whether their new neighbor will bring them new customers or force them out of business.

The walls of the new Wal-Mart Super Center are quickly taking shape off Highway 49. But the retail giant's impending arrival doesn't necessarily worry longtime merchants in downtown Wiggins.

Small businesses may feel some pinch of competition, but the manager of a specialty gift and jewelry store says the new neighbor may actually attract new customers downtown.

"People who are driving on 49 might decide to see what else Wiggins has to offer and come see us," said Debbie Benoit, who manages Evan's Gifts and Jewelry.

Benoit says personal service and unique merchandise will also keep local customers coming.

"We have a lot of specialty gift items that you wouldn't find. And we go to market every year and we try to find unique and different things other stores don't have. And we also have a fine jewelry line that we're real proud of," Benoit said.

One business which will no doubt feel some impact from Wal-Mart is County Discount Drug. It's the kind of small town shop where you can have a prescription filled, pick up a two liter bottle of Coke and buy a hunting rifle.

"Our customers are our friends. And we really get to know them. And you take a special concern in their health care," store manager Vickie Parker said.

Knowing their customer's needs and names has helped keep the drug store successful since 1979. Wal-Mart might offer both prescriptions and sporting goods. But local store managers say they'll keep serving their longtime customers and count on their history of success to meet the challenge of competition.

"Make the best out of the situation. I'm sure they'll bring a lot to our community. Competition isn't always bad," Parker said.

The big name competition plans on opening in Wiggins early this summer.