Esry's Grocery in Hamilton Missouri
Red Esry, a Korean War veteran and forty-year member of the American Legion, is a hardworking family man from Hamilton, Missouri, a small rural community of church-going family people. As a self-made success story from a poor family, he founded the first Esry's Grocery in Cameron, Missouri, in 1970, and grew it into a successful four-store legacy for his son and grandchildren.
When Wal-Mart came to the area in 1995, aided by millions of dollars in subsidies, Red lost almost half of his business overnight. He appealed to the local government and cut costs, but refused to stop paying his employees a decent wage and continued to provide them with full health-care benefits and a pension package in reward for their loyalty and hard work.
None of the subsidies given to Wal-Mart were made available to the Esry family. After two painful years of Wal-Mart’s unfair practices, Red was forced to close down.
"We went to the Army and fought Communism and came back and had to fight Wal-Mart," Esry laments. "It was 40 years of hard work that seemed to disappear all at once."
But even after his experience, Red is quick to point out that he is a staunch supporter of American capitalism – but, he says, “Capitalism isn’t the same thing as monopoly, and that’s what Wal-Mart is. I don’t mind competing, but only if it’s on an even playing field, and Wal-Mart is not on an even playing field.”