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The Original Walton’s 5&10

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The story of Walmart is really that of a family inextricably woven into the fabric of the culture in Bentonville, Arkansas, situated in Northwest Arkansas approximately 110 miles from Tulsa, Oklahoma, 216 miles from Little Rock, Arkansas and 235 miles from Kansas City, Missouri.

To grasp how this all fits together be sure to visit the Walmart Visitor Center, located befittingly inside Walton’s 5&10, the first business opened by Sam Waltonin 1950, the same year he and his family moved here.

From the outside and just inside of the doors is looks somewhat like it did back in the day—as a quaint, classic five and dime offering a handful of retro souvenir items, a café selling beverages, candy and snacks, and a large photo mural of the town’s beloved “Sam.”

However, just beyond the counter is an expansive museum possessing a wealth of interactive displays and numerous historical memorabilia collections that chronicle the company (whose global headquarters is located here in town) and the people who live and have breathed it since its founding.

A good start here is the Sam Walton Theatre for a short film detailing Sam’s life, loves, work and philanthropy, which really provides a much more in-depth, behind-the-scenes look into this global phenomenon which, sadly, is often portrayed in a negative light in the media.

The multi-room gallery exhibits here are engaging and interactive, including artifact pull-out drawers (made with handles from old Walmart shopping carts!), timelines, newspaper and magazine features, Walmart products past and present, family history, the start of the Sam’s Club stores, their worldwide philanthropic efforts, and more.

Two of the most popular exhibits are Sam’s office, depicted as it was when he died in 1992, and his beloved red, 1979 Ford F-150 truck which he drove every day until his passing. The underlying theme of the Center is the great emphasis placed on the people, not just Sam and his family, behind Walmart’s success.

And that is really the story of Bentonville, a town which through perseverance, hard work and a billion-dollar enterprise made a name for themselves, but remained humble and down-to-earth. This was evident in not only the way Sam and his family lived, but the residents as well. In fact, today Northwest Arkansas has the highest number of millionaires—an estimated 10,000 of them—per capita in the U.S., yet flashy cars, clothing and homes (some of these millionaires still live in the same homes they bought back in the 1960s and 70s) are the exception, not the norm.

This underlying appreciation of what’s important in life—the people—is one of the most charming aspects of living or visiting here.

Check out these other great related features!

A Taste of Bentonville

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art




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