Livingston Wal-mart to close

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 13, 2005

LIVINGSTON – Although Demopolis residents can soon expect a new Wal-mart Supercenter, Livingston residents will be forced to face the closing of their city’s Wal-mart.

“It really came out of the blue,” Livingston mayor Tom Tartt said. “We are just in shock. I have felt like I have been hit in the stomach all day long.”

According to Glen Wilkins, Wal-mart community affairs manager, it was a difficult decision to close the Livingston store.

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“Livingston is so much a part of who we are and we want to continue to make a positive difference in the community,” Wilkins said. “We encourage our neighbors to take advantage of the new opportunities the Supercenter will offer and will do our best to address their concerns.”

Wilkins said the Livingston store will close January 25, one day before the Demopolis Supercenter is expected to open, in attempts to drive business to the new store.

“We talked to their district manager in February or March because we had heard that when the Supercenter opened they were thinking about closing our location,” Tartt said. “At that time we posed the question directly to him. And he said he would get back with us. He later informed us that there were no plans to close the store.”

Twenty-five years ago the Wal-mart came to town and closed several mom and pop style stores. Now, those stores are gone and there are few places in town that offer the products Wal-mart had.

According to Tartt, Livingston had even considered trying to establish a small Supercenter.

“They said they looked at the numbers and the best way to make the Demopolis store succeed was to close this one,” Tartt said. “They said this was just best for the new location.”

Tartt said he is hoping some of the local merchants will step up and offer some of the products Wal-mart did.

“My mother always used to tell me that when one door closed another one opens. We are just hoping another one opens.”

Wal-mart asks Livingston’s current associates to consider transferring to the new Supercenter.

They also will have the option to work at the Wal-mart Supercenter in Meridian, Miss.

“I’m not shocked, I just don’t know what I want to do yet,” Pat Walker, Livingston employee, said.

Elnora Banner, another Livingston employee, said she is undecided as well.

“I have to talk it over with my family,” Banner said as Walker agreed.

Both Banner and Walker have been employed at the Livingston Wal-mart for about three years and were informed of the closing yesterday afternoon.

Wal-mart corporate offices plan to offer a severance package to those who do not wish to continue their employment with the company, but there is no compensation for the inconvenience it will cause to the citizens.

“They said they had done the math and people were willing to travel 20 to 30 miles to shop,” Tartt said. “At that point I informed them that this store served Sumter and Greene Counties, which were two of the poorest in the state. About 70 to 75 percent of those people can’t afford to travel that far with gas sitting at $3 a gallon.”

Wal-mart shopper Cynthia Nixon said she is not willing to make the drive to Demopolis for the Supercenter, but will do it because she has to.

“The only other places we have here are Dollar General and Super Dollar,” Nixon said. “I wish they would’ve built the Supercenter here.”

Nixon said she will have to budget more time in her schedule to shop because although she is currently able to simply drive down the street to get to Wal-mart, she will soon have to take a 30-minute trip to Demopolis.

“I guess it’ll be worth it because the Supercenter will have more variety,” she said. “But this is going to hurt a lot of people.”

Livingston will soon be 175 years old and Tartt has faith the city will be able to bounce back from its corporation loss.

“We are coming up on the city’s 175 birthday, which tells us we have been here for a long time,” Tartt said. “We’ve survived for 150 years without a Wal-mart and we will just have to learn to live without it now.”