A Second Chance for Walmart In Newport, Arkansas

Walmart 60th

One setback didn’t stop Mr. Sam from setting up shop in this city.

Newport, Arkansas, is famous for being the place where Sam Walton got his start. It’s also famous for being the place where Sam Walton had to start over.

Mr. Sam opened a Ben Franklin variety store in Newport in 1945. Within five years, it had become the top Ben Franklin franchise in the state. In fact, it was so successful that the landlord would not renew Mr. Sam’s lease so he could give the store to his son. That forced the Waltons to find a new location—Bentonville.

A Store Is Born

Mr. Sam might not have been able to launch his famous chain in Newport, but Walmart came to town eventually. Store 18 opened in 1969 in the Village Mall. It started as a Division 1 store. When it moved in 2013, it became a supercenter.

Clint Garrett, Store 18’s manager, has been with Walmart for 23 years. He joined the store in 2019. It was a challenging start—first with the company’s switch to teaming and then when the pandemic hit—but Clint says Store 18’s associates helped make the transitions easier.

“I have a wonderful group of associates who are engaging,” he says. “I’m lucky to have this team.”

Lifers of the Party

Among the store’s 176 team members are longtime associates Shirley Simpson and Priscilla Brown (pictured below, with Clint). Priscilla has been with Walmart for 34 years and Shirley for 33 years. Both worked at Store 18 before it moved to its present location and became a supercenter.

They enjoy the bigger store, Shirley says. “It’s a one-stop shop. You can get it all at one time.”

Shirley, now a cashier, started in sporting goods, but has also worked in receiving and on the front end. A mother to five children, she now has seven grandkids and one great grandchild.

Priscilla was 23 when she started working as a cashier. A single mom with a daughter, she completed a vocational training program to learn to use a cash register and was hired, along with the rest of her class, at Walmart. Now a grandmother to eight, Priscilla went on to spend 20 years at the service desk.

“The management team is great,” she says. “We plan to go as long as we can. We enjoy working!”

Both express pride in Store 18 and the experience they help provide for customers. Over the years, they’ve both earned service pins and awards, including a four-star cashier award for Shirley.

“We’re the cleanest store they’ve been in,” Shirley says. “We try to make customers as comfortable as we can.”

Clint says his own Walmart career got a boost from Market Manager Randy Norman, who acted as a mentor and talked him into joining the assistant manager program. Back when Clint was first starting out, Randy asked him where he wanted to be in 15 years. Clint pointed to Randy’s chair.

As Store 18’s manager, he has now taken on his former mentor’s role, encouraging associates in their career paths.

A Surprise Guest

One of the highlights of Clint’s career came in August of 2020, when Walmart CEO and President Doug McMillon made a surprise visit to Store 18.

“Doug listened and took the time to talk to associates,” Clint recalls with a smile. “His visit helped get our store remodel going in January 2021.” Renovations paved the way for online grocery pickup.

Store 18 helps support the Newport community with donations to a local food pantry, coat drives and an angel tree, as well as support for the I’m Making a Difference organization and Children’s Miracle Network.

Though the Waltons’ journey out of Newport happened long ago, a mini museum, once in the manager’s office and now under renovation, tracks the history of the store and the town.

It’s a story still in the making, as Store 18 and its associates continue to grow with the Newport community.