Colon Washburn, a longtime Walmart executive who also developed and opened Northwest Arkansas’ largest office park, died Tuesday (May 8) at Mercy Hospital in Rogers. He was 72. Washburn was a California native, according to his obituary, who worked with Walmart from 1971 to 1993, starting as a sales clerk in Clinton Mo.
Washburn eventually became senior vice president of Walmart and executive vice president of merchandising for Sam’s Club, the retailer’s warehouse store subsidiary. He also led merchandising efforts to open Walmart’s first international store in Mexico City, and, according to the obituary, spearheaded the company’s Buy America program.
After Washburn left Wal-Mart, he was CEO of produce distributor Fresh America Corp., a retail consultant for Walgreen Co. and Indian conglomerate Reliance Retail. He most recently served as the president and CEO of Virginia-based ThinkGeek, a subsidiary of Geeknet Inc. He stepped down at the end of 2012.
As a real estate developer, Washburn’s most notable project was Beau Terre, the region’s largest office park. The 35-building, 383,000-SF office park is just off Interstate 49 in Bentonville, intersected by Arkansas Highway 72.
Beau Terre was opened to tenants in October 1994 by Washburn and his wife, Dana Washburn, who also spent several years in merchandising, working for Sam’s Club. It was the first office park in Northwest Arkansas built specifically to attract vendors doing business with Walmart, with onsite conveniences for tenants to take advantage of, including a daycare and fitness center, hotel and restaurant. The Washburns sold the 79-acre development in June 2004 for $56.2 million to Behringer Harvard Funds of Dallas.
Washburn, according to the obituary, also was a co-founder of Returning Home, a Christian ministry in Rogers offering support to incarcerated or recently released individuals and their families. He also participated in and acted as a team leader in both Celebrate Recovery and Influencers of Northwest Arkansas. Washburn also continually worked to mentor men in a variety of arenas, including prisoners at the Springdale Work Release Center.
A funeral service through Stockdale-Moody Funeral Services of Rogers is scheduled Saturday (May 11) at 11 a.m. in the Training Center Chapel at Fellowship Bible Church in Rogers.