Paragould has own reason to fete Wal-Mart's 50th
Thursday, July 5, 2012
PARAGOULD, Ark. (AP) — To commemorate Wal-Mart's 50th anniversary and L.A. Darling's long relationship with the world's largest retailer, the northeast Arkansas company hosted a luncheon for its employees and area Walmart managers.
L.A. Darling human resources director Gary Gossett said L.A. Darling prided itself on being among Walmart's oldest partners as the factory had provided fixtures for the stores since the early beginnings of the retail giant. He said L.A. Darling manufactured nearly all of the shelving on which Walmart displayed its products.
"About the only thing we really don't manufacture are refrigeration units and some of the fixtures in the produce areas," Gossett said. "Walmart is a major customer of ours. They have been a long-standing partner of ours. We started doing business with them in the late 60s."
Gossett said there was some debate over when Darling actually began supplying fixtures to Walmart. He said the Paragould factory opened in 1966 and there had been some records dating back to 1969. But Gossett said there had been pictures of a Darling truck in front of the first Walmart in Rogers. He said both companies had contributed to each other's success for several decades.
"We've pretty much been part of Walmart from the onset," Gossett said. "We're (Walmart's) go-to supplier when it comes to problems in the field. If they're trying to open a store and they find out they're short on something... they'll call us. I think that's why Walmart looks at us as a major partner."
Paragould Walmart manager Terry Melton told the Paragould Daily Press (http://is.gd/LVJTWH) having an L.A. Darling plant in Paragould had proven beneficial to his store several times. He said when the fixtures at his store began to deteriorate, he could get them repaired or replaced quickly and it benefited Darling as well.
"We've got a great partnership with (L.A. Darling)," Melton said. "Whenever they're doing innovation on new products, they come over to our store and try it out to see how it's going to work in the store. It's been a win-win for us."
During the celebration, several L.A. Darling employees shared their appreciation to Walmart for its longtime partnership. Barry Smoker said he and several members of his family had worked for L.A. Darling for more than 200 years combined. He said his parents moved to Paragould with the factory when it moved from Michigan and he had worked for L.A. Darling for more than 30 years.
"I have been privileged to work with Darling engineering department and Walmart sales teams to provide new and innovative design concepts to the Wal-Mart fixture line," Smoker said during the ceremony. "I would like to congratulate Wal-Mart on its 50-year anniversary and look forward to continuing to build our relationship and serving Wal-Mart's fixture needs for a great future."
Information from: Paragould Daily Press, http://www.paragoulddailypress.com/