Wal-Mart’s polite request, and Missoula’s award-winning bookseller 

Perhaps you’re one of the thousands of Missoula County residents who received a postcard in the mail from Wal-Mart recently, asking your opinion on the proposed expansion of its Highway 93 store. It seems the world’s largest retailer, with annual revenues exceeding those of several small nations, is not always greeted with its signature yellow smiley faces by the communities where it tries to plant its asphalt.

In fact, over the past three months alone, company efforts to tighten its grip on the retail niche for inexpensive plastic gewgaws has been met by vehement opposition across the country. Residents of Arlington, Texas are battling a 208,000 square-foot Wal-Mart Superstore, planned just four miles from an existing Wal-Mart and seven miles from another Superstore. Similar story in the sleepy Louisiana town of Robert, where residents are fuming over plans to open 3 million square feet of Wal-Mart in their region. And several weeks ago, residents of Kent County, Md., finally halted plans to build a Wal-Mart in Chesterton. Despite Maryland’s statewide smart-growth laws and a county comprehensive plan, it took a seven-year legal battle to breach the Wal and get the store deep-sixed.

Curiously, the Missoula postcards seek opinions about expanding the Highway 93 store, but make no mention of the 200,000 square-foot Superstore currently under review on Mullan Road less than five miles away, which, by the way, does not require City Council approval. To date, our repeated phone calls to Wal-Mart’s corporate headquarters have gone unanswered. Stay tuned, as we roll back the truth.
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It struck us as particularly fitting to make some space in our Summer Reading Issue this week to doff our caps to Missoula’s premier independent bookseller, Barbara Theroux of Fact & Fiction.

Why, you ask? Well, it seems that earlier this month, Theroux was granted an unusual honor: the Charles S. Haslam Award for Excellence in Bookselling. Not that odd to folks in the industry perhaps—it is given every year by the Southeast Booksellers Association—but in these days of big-box bookstores, it seemed noteworthy that someone was taking pains to pay homage to the little guys. And besides, we had to wonder, what exactly constitutes “excellence in bookselling?”

“They want to know how, as an independent bookseller, you stand out from the others,” Theroux said of the prize-giving judges. “What activities do you do? What do you do at the regional level and in the associations? Basically, they’re looking for someone who does more than just open up the doors when they show up for work in the morning.”

As anyone who has attended her author readings and book signings can tell you, Fact & Fiction has been doing that for years. Which is why Theroux took top honors this year, which include $1,000 cash, a plaque, and a travelling trophy, which will be on display at the shop come September.

“I’m excited and proud, and I truly feel it’s an honor for all the readers of Missoula,” Theroux says with no false modesty. Congratulations.

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