Second Wal-Mart Supercenter planned for north Ames


Photo: Logan Gaedke/Iowa State Daily

South Duff Walmart in Ames.

Christie Smith

Shoppers in northern Ames will soon see their Wal-Mart grow. 

The current Wal-Mart on Grand Avenue is planning to expand onto the neighboring lot — previously home to a Dahl’s Foods — to become a supercenter. The store is expected to open sometime in 2017, according to Wal-Mart’s corporate office.

Current plans include the demolition of the Dahl’s building to construct the new supercenter with almost 50,000 additional square feet of retail space. The current Wal-Mart facility will then be demolished to make way for parking, said John Hall, director of business development and marketing for the Chamber of Commerce.

Hall said the supercenter will cater to a growing need in north Ames.

“There’s a large population up there that’s really underserved by current grocery facilities here in Ames,” Hall said.

In order to determine which businesses to recruit to Ames, Hall said the Chamber of Commerce collects market data and monitors resident satisfaction surveys. Although they do not collect data for specific stores, they do monitor general needs such as fresh produce and convenient shopping in isolated parts of town.

When deciding whether the local market can sustain a business, Hall said corporations conduct their own in-depth market analyses.

“Our job is to get them attracted to Ames,” Hall said.

The city of Ames is currently home to several stores that provide grocery items, including Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart Supercenter, Target, Hy-Vee, Fareway, Wheatsfield Cooperative and a local farmer’s market that spans more than 20 weekends in late spring through early fall.

“Each store has a different focus and a different attraction for clients,” Hall said.

Sadie Lewman, junior in materials engineering, agrees that the various stores in Ames cater to specific customers.

“As someone who prefers to shop locally, I doubt a new Wal-Mart Supercenter would change my personal shopping habits a whole lot,” Lewman said.

Despite the myriad options available to Ames residents, Hall said Wal-Mart determined the market need for additional resources. Wal-Mart purchased the Dahl’s building without any recruiting efforts from the city.

“Truthfully, we really didn’t have much to do with Wal-Mart’s interest in the supercenter here in Ames,” Hall said. “Businesses know where business is good.”

Hall added that Wal-Mart was not offered any incentives, like tax abatement, to develop in north Ames.

The city of Ames has several initiatives in place to develop smaller, local businesses, including the Campustown Action Association and the Main Street program.

“Our interests are to keep a healthy downtown full of local shops and businesses,” Hall said.

Hall said Ames values and encourages small business, but the reality is that residents expect a balance.

Lewman acknowledged demand for a supercenter.

“I do think it would be a benefit to people who live in the area,” Lewman said. “The variety of products that supercenters carry is kind of the norm now.”

Lewman also cited the “outdated” appearance of the current Wal-Mart on Grand and traffic congestion on Duff as reasons a new supercenter may succeed in north Ames.

“The truth is that a lot of folks expect to be able to go to some of these large box retailers,” Hall said.

Despite nationwide criticism for stifling small business, Hall said he does not worry about another supercenter affecting any of Ames’ local businesses.

“It’s not the addition of a new store,” Hall said, adding that it’s instead the expansion of an already existing one. “It’s in its own remote area where it’s going to be able to better serve to meet the demands of the people that live in that area.”

Wheatsfield Cooperative and Fareway declined to comment on the addition of another Wal-Mart Supercenter in Ames. Hy-Vee could not be reached for comment.