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Grey Forest, meet the Wal-Mart movie

Byron Faust is the proprietor of Elf Industries, what he calls a “podunk hardware store in a podunk town,” and is not overly worried that a Wal-Mart Supercenter Store could be built up the street at the corner of Scenic Loop Road and Bandera Road.

He took over the hardware business from his father, who established Elf Industries in Old Helotes, across the street from the John T. Floore Country Store, 36 years ago. Byron owns a business in Helotes, but he resides in Grey Forest, a small community that once had stagecoaches rolling through it.

Faust doesn’t want to say too much about Wal-Mart, except that personally, he doesn’t want to see that kind of urban growth in a place that for decades has had a small-town feel. “I don’t want it, but it’s coming this way. I don’t know how to stop growth.”

If Wal-Mart comes to Scenic Loop Road, it will sell many of the items that Faust stocks in his old-style hardware shop, but he says a big-box store would not put him out of business.

I’ll tell you why after the movie.

Last Thursday at the Grey Forest Playground and Community Center, about 50 Grey Forest residents — including a smattering of people from Helotes and San Antonio — stood in line to purchase paper sacks filled with popcorn, and popped the tops on soda cans, and took a seat to watch a film that was released to about 7,000 communities nationwide last week.

It was the Grey Forest premiere of Wal-Mart: The High Price of Low Cost, and a majority of the audience were members of the Helotes Heritage Association, a group founded about a year ago to fight Wal-Mart’s plan to desecrate what many call the Gateway to the Hill Country.

“I don’t want it, but

it’s coming this way.

I don’t know how to stop growth.”


– hardware store owner
Byron Faust

The movie opens with Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott speaking to shareholders about the monster corporation’s record earnings and its tendency to strike fear and envy in some retail circles. “You better be ready to be better focus on doing the right thing stay the course this company will continue to grow.”

Boooo, said the Grey Forest audience.

Segue to Middlefield, Ohio, where Wal-Mart is credited with putting the Hunter Family store, H&H Hardware, out of business. The Hunters started with a one-room building, migrated to a larger space, and thrived by doing business with the Amish and other community members. Then the Wal-Mart bulldozers came.

“There’s a China pipeline to everybody’s living room through Wal-Mart,” says Jon Hunter, who saw his family business closed down after Wal-Mart came to town. “Wal-Mart is rampaging through the American community, and nobody is doing anything about it.”

Weldon Nicholson, a former manager trainer for Wal-Mart, said he has seen many businesses close after Wal-Mart flooded small-town America with its Made in China commodities. One town after another sits with shuttered downtown storefronts after they were Wal-Martized into oblivion.

The movie is 98 minutes long, and more information can be found at walmartmovie.com. It’s fascinating to watch as the film crew interviews families who were run out of business and former managers and Wal-Mart employees who testified about the company’s Draconian business practices, including its overseas sweatshops.

The Grey Forest crowd gave it a thumbs-up and a resounding round of applause.

Faust’s Elf Industries is an official dealership for STIHL Power Tools, including high-quality string trimmers and chainsaws.

“I don’t think Wal-Mart will affect my business,” says Faust. Seventy percent of his sales come from STIHL. “I service everything I sell, and STIHL products can’t be sold in a box.”

Because he maintains an authorized STIHL dealership, Faust draws customers from Bandera, Boerne, New Braunfels, and as far away as Cotulla.

And while Wal-Mart peddles Made in China, Faust says that 90 percent of the German-owned STIHL products are manufactured in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

He is raising his 3-and-a-half-year-old daughter at home on Scenic Loop Road. Although growth is inevitable, in the best-case scenario, she would grow up in a rural setting such as Grey Forest, just like her daddy did, without a Wal-Mart on the corner.

By Michael Cary


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