Walmart's hometown has filled up with mansions, high-end restaurants, and an art museum - see all of the changes the company's wealthy founding family has brought
Mary HanburyMar 14, 2018, 12.05 AM
Walmart's headquarters are located in Bentonville, Arkansas.
The city has become a desirable destination as Walmart executives have relocated there.
As a result, home values have gone up in recent years.
Bentonville has also become home to more trendy restaurants and a boutique hotel.
Since the Waltons first set foot in Bentonville in 1950, the quiet town has grown to become a cosmopolitan city with a modern art gallery, boutique hotel, artisan shops, and fancy restaurants - and the family that founded Walmart is mostly to thank for this.
The presence of Walmart's headquarters here has driven up property prices in the area as company executives settle in the town and create a demand for luxury real estate.
The average price for homes in downtown Bentonville has increased from $63 to $192 per square foot up in the past six years, according to a study done by the University of Arkansas and commissioned by the Walton Family Foundation, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Bentonville is in the northwest part of Arkansas. It's the ninth-largest city in the state, with a population of just over 47,000 people.
The founder of Walmart, Sam Walton, moved to the city in 1950 and set up his Walton's 5 & 10 store. At the time, it was a quiet town, and the surrounding area was once known for its apple, poultry, and dairy production. Walton's original store still stands today and is part of the Walmart Museum, which was set up to educate visitors about the company's history.
Walton opened the first Walmart store in Rogers, Arkansas, in 1962. By 1967, there were 24 locations in Arkansas. Three years later, the company went public.
In 1971, Walton set up Walmart's headquarters in Bentonville because it was a relatively inexpensive place to run a business. The HQ is still located here, just outside of the city. The company announced in September that it would be opening more offices there.
Over the years, the Walton family has made significant investments into the Bentonville area. In the '70s and '80s Sam Walton and his wife, Helen, built tennis courts, a senior citizens' recreation hall, nonprofit daycare center, library, youth athletic center, and employee health club, according to The Washington Post.
The Waltons now have a combined net worth of about $133 billion, according to Bloomberg, and they've been named the wealthiest family in America. Sam Walton's children have continued to donate. Alice Walton, the youngest of Sam Walton's children, has never had an active role in the business but is an avid collector of art.
In 2011, she opened the Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville to house her $500 million private art collection. When it opened, it had four times the endowment of the famous Whitney Museum in New York.
The museum is free to visit and houses an impressive collection of artwork from artists such as Andy Warhol and Georgia O'Keeffe.
The museum acquired one of architect Frank Lloyd Wright's creations in 2013.
The Waltons are also to thank for the town's boutique hotel, 21c Museum Hotel. In 2010, the family partnered with 21c Museum Hotels to create the 104-room hotel, which cost $28 million to construct.
The hotel has its own restaurant, The Hive, which serves Southern food that costs between $16 and $29 for an entree. Its executive chef, Matthew McClure, has been named a semifinalist for five years running in the James Beard Foundation's Best Chef awards.
There's also a well-respected cooking school in town. Brightwater, part of the NorthWest Arkansas Community College, is backed by the Walton Family Foundation, which gave it a grant in 2015 to build a 27,500-square-foot facility in downtown Bentonville.
Downtown is known for its trendy coffee shops and artisan stores. A non-profit called Downtown Bentonville Inc. organizes concerts and events in this area.
Because Bentonville is home to Walmart's headquarters, it's also become home for many of its executives, which has created a market for luxury real estate. This five-bedroom house is on the market for $461,000. It sits in a gated community, the Lochmoor Club, that's directly marketed to Walmart workers.
The average cost of housing is higher in Bentonville than in any city in the rest of the state. Home values have risen 5.2% in Bentonville over the past year, and only 1.1% in Arkansas' largest city and state capital, Little Rock, in that same period.
The area's most expensive homes are often located in Pinnacle, a community built around a country club in nearby Rogers. Former Walmart CEO Lee Scott and current Sam's Club CEO John Furner have properties there.