Chandler's Drug and Medical Supplies, a small corner store in an aging Landover Hills strip mall, has sold everything over the past 57 years, from sugar-free candy to walking canes to hospital bedsheets.
Stephen Needel, the pharmacist and owner, has peered over the worn, brown counter for 32 of those years, long enough to watch the toddlers who came in with moms or dads return as adults to pick up medicine for their aging parents.
But Needel said he is not sure how much longer he will remain in the neighborhood. This month, the Prince George's County Council amended zoning laws to allow Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer and grocer, to open its first store inside the Capital Beltway late next year. The site is the abandoned Capital Plaza Mall, about a mile from Chandler's.
"Wal-Mart is Wal-Mart," Needel said. "There is always a place for the independents -- hopefully."
Yet history suggests that where Wal-Mart goes -- and with 3,600 stores in the United States, it is close to everywhere -- small businesses often disappear. Some community leaders also have concerns about how the Bentonville, Ark., company, the nation's largest employer, treats its 1.6 million workers, who are not unionized.
Wal-Mart, which has stores in Bowie and Clinton, said its hourly wage in the region is $10.08, compared with $13.19 at Giant and Safeway, whose employees are represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. The company offers a health plan, but labor leaders, who have tried unsuccessfully to organize Wal-Mart's workforce, said the wages are so low that employees cannot afford to pay premiums.
"Wal-Mart doesn't have the greatest reputation," council member David Harrington (D-Cheverly) said. "It leads to low wages and little benefit."
Still, community leaders and residents said, most people who have qualms are ready to set aside those concerns for anything that might help Landover Hills and its Annapolis Road corridor, which has been in an economic tailspin.
Even Needel said he has hated watching Capital Plaza, which takes up several blocks, turn into another abandoned building.
"I really do think it will be an igniter," said the Rev. Terence D. Collins, executive director of the Community Ministry of Prince George's County, a nonprofit group that works with unemployed and low-income residents. "There has to be a starting point, and that's what I see Wal-Mart as."
It has been almost 20 years since shoppers strolled the mall, which was anchored by Montgomery Ward and Bradlees. Girls bought shoes at Fayva, and women shopped for clothes at Merry-Go-Round.
"Everything was leased up, the traffic flow was great and we had quite a number of national tenants," said Randall J. Levitt, president of Nellis Corp., which owns and manages Capital Plaza.
When Bradlees left the Washington market, Hechinger, the hardware and lumber company, moved in. "It was a good retailer but not a good anchor for a mall," Levitt said. A person buying lumber isn't likely to buy a pair of shoes or a dress at the same time, he said.
Montgomery Ward and Hechinger filed for bankruptcy, leaving Capital Plaza about five years ago. That left mostly small local businesses working on month-to-month leases.
"We really weren't making enough in rent to keep the lights on," Levitt said.
In addition to Wal-Mart, Levitt said, talks are underway to build a grocery store, pharmacy, dry cleaner and restaurants.
"The people here need jobs," Collins said. "I realize they may not be union jobs and they may not have benefits. But they are better than nothing."
Collins recently witnessed the area's need for economic revival firsthand as he watched his son play football a few blocks from the Capital Plaza site. Suddenly, the skies opened.
"There really wasn't anywhere for me to get an umbrella," Collins said. "What is available outside the Beltway should be available to those who are inside the Beltway."
Sharon Jennings of Landover Hills travels to the Laurel Wal-Mart to buy an outfit for her daughter, a gallon of laundry detergent or a bottle of body lotion.
"I can't wait for it to open," Jennings said of the Landover Hills plan. "Do you know if it's going to be a Super Wal-Mart, or when it's opening?"
Needel said he will continue to do the things that set his business apart from a Wal-Mart, such as making deliveries.
On a recent afternoon behind the counter, Needel asked a woman, whose nose was red from wiping it, whether she wanted both of her prescriptions for antibiotics filled. "You're not going to take both, are you?"
"I'm not planning to take the Cipro right away," the woman replied.
"Okay, I just don't want to make you sicker than you already are," said Needel as he counted out the little white pills.
Later, Needel said he remains hopeful that he will keep his customers.
"The way I dealt with that lady, that's not Wal-Mart," he said. "I'm not putting them down. But like I said, Wal-Mart is Wal-Mart."