Welcome back! We’ve just entered the Walmart Visitor Center, situated befittingly inside Sam Walton’s original 5&10 in Bentonville, Arkansas, to get a historical account of how the worldwide phenomenon of Walmart came to fruition. To start at the beginning of this series click here.
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.
A Little Slice of Americana
Bentonville’s quaint downtown square represents and still has the look and feel of a slice of small town America. Here you will find a bevy of restaurants, boutique shops, a market, bike shop, coffee houses, the Convention and Visitors Bureau and Chamber offices, galleries and the like, centered around a beautiful park blooming most of the year with multi-hued flowers, lush plants, inviting benches and open green space.
Numerous historic and family attractions can be found within a few miles of the square, such as Compton Gardens and Conference Center, named after Dr. Neil Compton, a noted Bentonville physician, writer, photographer, and founder of the Ozark Society. The Conference Center is his remodeled home and the 6.5 acre garden features beautiful native and woodland plants, flowers and trees.
The Peel Mansion Museum and Historic Gardens, built in 1875 in the Italianate Villa Style by Colonel Samuel West Peel, is highlighted by with authentic antiquities and artifacts of the era. The Museum of Native American History depicts the changing lives of America’s first inhabitants through six different time periods, and some of the artifacts here date back some 14,000 years. These are just a few of the many historic and interesting sites and attractions in and around Bentonville.
To start at the beginning of this series click here.
Next up: where to sip, chew and savor a taste of the city!