Booming Bentonville is Arkansas’ biggest small town.

In 1945, Sam Walton bought a Ben Franklin variety store in Newport, Arkansas. Walton had a head for business, and within three years had tripled the store’s profits. But a dispute with his landlord caused him to sell the shop and open Walton’s Five and Dime in nearby Bentonville. He signed a 99-year lease on the new store in the tiny town square. That space is now the Walmart Museum, and the battered front door of the old Ben Franklin store is its first exhibit.

You probably know that the five-and-dime grew into Walmart, an international retail powerhouse and the largest private employer in the world. Walton’s relentless focus on cost cutting and customer service proved replicable far and wide. The former Army man took up flying, buying his own airplane and zooming around the country to scout new locations and close increasingly big deals.

When the Walmart board of directors pleaded with him, the company’s irreplaceable mastermind, to hire a professional pilot, he flatly refused. If someone else flew the plane, his workaholic brain would force him to deal with the mountains of paperwork that accumulated on the desk that now sits in the museum. His time behind the stick, absorbed in the task of staying airborne, was the only time he had to himself.


Posted on October 17, 2022, by , Memphis Magazine