Several web sites have reported that Wal-Mart has applied for permits to open a 33,000-square-foot (3,066-square-meter) grocery store at 701 West César E. Chávez Avenue (some reports say 701 West Sunset Avenue), in the residential section of Los Angeles’ Chinatown. Chinatown activists are understandably concerned:
While the arrival of new immigrants is slowing, Chinatown still remains a crucial cultural and economic hub and an unmistakable part of the Los Angeles landscape. That’s why the fact that behemoth retailer Walmart is locating in the neighborhood is alarming. This is a company known for decimating “main streets” across the country. Chinatown is built on small business and Walmart would be in direct competition with the local markets and shops that already serve the local population.
From what I have observed, many of Chinatown’s existing family-run grocery stores are already struggling; having a Wal-Mart nearby undercutting their prices on basic goods will do them no favors. Chinatown residents will likely continue to patronize these small stores to buy most of their Chinese and Southeast Asian foods, but I would not be surprised if Wal-Mart added similar products to their inventory and sold them at lower prices.