In 1983, when TIME first profiled the company, many readers might not have even heard of it. Though Wal-Mart was already the ninth-largest retailer in the nation and had raked in $3.4 billion the previous year, it had locations in only 15 states.
And the size of the operation — it now operates in 27 countries — isn’t the only thing that has changed. The news about the Walmart minimum-wage hike has been tied to an ongoing campaign for the rights of workers; like the fast-food industry, the company has acquired a reputation as a place where low-level employees aren’t paid enough. In 1983, however, employee happiness was said to be one of the company’s strengths:
Read the 1983 story, here in the TIME Vault: Small-Town Hit