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Smokey Point businesses react to Walmart's impending arrival
SMOKEY POINT — Carla Gastineau knew it was just a matter of time before Walmart began construction across the street.
“It’s always been in the back of my mind,” said Gastineau, manager of the Stillaguamish Athletic Club, which sits across 172nd Street NE from an empty field that by next fall will house a new 154,000-square-foot Walmart. “We’re looking to have a friendly business relationship with them, and we’re not going to try to keep big businesses out.”
Many Smokey Point business owners are taking a wait-and-see approach or showing cautious optimism about the new superstore currently being erected just east of Interstate 5 and south of the Arlington Municipal Airport.
Construction crews recently dropped off portable offices to the Walmart site which, when completed, will not only bring additional jobs and commerce but also create more congestion at an already busy stretch of roadway, business owners said.
“Overall I’m hoping that it will bring more visibility to my business,” said Anita Black, owner of the Glass Cottage on 172nd Street NE. “On the other side of the coin, traffic is always an issue. It does concern me a little and it may make people stay away. It’s kind of a two-edged sword.”
The Glass Cottage, which provides patrons with classes on and supplies for all things stained glass, has been in Smokey Point for the past five years, Black said.
Gastineau said that the approximately 500 daily clients of Stillaguamish have been discussing the new Walmart ever since late January when news came out that the store was officially going up.
“The No. 1 concern was traffic with our clients,” Gastineau said. “I’m a little bit concerned about the impact on traffic. Already 172nd is pretty heavily traveled — that’s a big concern on how it’s going to affect us.”
The city of Arlington has been working with the Washington State Department of Transportation to get road improvements, including adding lanes and constructing at least one traffic circle, approved and completed within the next couple of years, city officials have said.
No timetable or funding for any roadway projects on 172nd Street NE (SR 531) have been approved.
In addition to their traffic congestion concerns, some businesses managers said they would have liked Walmart to consider building their new store where the currently unoccupied Food Pavilion building is on Smokey Point Boulevard.
“It’s too bad Walmart couldn’t have gone into that space,” Gastineau said.
But despite those two concerns, those same business owners and managers said they are generally looking forward to Walmart.
Augga Hawkins, co-owner of Northwest Dance and Acro Center in Smokey Point, said she’s looking forward to the store bringing in business.
“People can drop off their kids here and go to Walmart,” Hawkins said. “For me, I’d love for it to come in because Arlington is small it may help our economy. More people will want to move to Arlington and it will help bring in jobs.”
Aces Casino owner Bill Tackitt said the Walmart will bring commerce back to the east side of Interstate 5 after Best Buy, Costco and Target were constructed in Lakewood a couple of years ago. Tackitt also owns 14 Buzz Inns, including one in Smokey Point.
“I think Walmart will now balance it out,” Tackitt said. “You’re going to see more traffic on this side of I-5.”
While the new store will have long-term impacts for the city, such as new jobs, the Walmart will also help local merchants immediately, he said.
“The company that’s building the store is from Boise, Idaho,” he said. “They’re going to bring their workers here and all of the businesses around here will get that business. Independent contractors in Marysville and Arlington will also get work because they’re going to buy materials right here.”