It was a shock to Walmart employees and the entire community to learn last Wednesday of the closing of the Winona store.
Over 200 concerned residents from Winona and surrounding areas gathered Friday for a demonstration in front of Winona Walmart in a move to help save the store from closing its doors permanently on January 30.
Winona resident Faye Gant organized the demonstration to also help gather signatures for a petition to keep the store open.
“I am not sure if it will help, but you don’t know until you try,” Gant said.
Gant said losing the store will hurt the elderly community who aren’t able to leave town to go Walmart in other counties.
So far, she has gathered around 300 signatures and she hopes to get more. Plans are to email the signatures to Walmart’s corporate office in Arkansas.
“We will probably have another signing event or demonstration soon,” Gant said.
Gant isn’t sure when the next signing will be, but residents can look for a time and date to be posted on Facebook or announced on the radio soon, she added.
Winona Mayor Jerry Flowers recently spoke with a corporate Walmart spokesperson out of Ridgeland expressing his concerns about the loss of jobs and how the closing will affect local elderly residents, who can’t travel out of town to go to Walmart.
“He said it was a done deal. It was strictly a corporate decision. It came down to the almighty dollar,” Flowers said. “We will move on.”
Flowers said three years ago, he and Winona Main Street Director Sue Stidham met with Walmart executives about expanding the Winona store.
“We were told that if they expanded the Walmart store, it would hurt the Grenada store,” Flowers said.
The Walmart pharmacy will close permanently on January 23, and customers will be assisted in transferring their prescriptions to a pharmacy of their choice or they will automatically transfer to the Grenada store, Anne Hatfield, a spokesperson from Walmart corporate office recently said.
Winona’s Walmart store opened in 1979, and according to Winona Main Street Director Sue Stidham, the store was number 215 of more than 11,000 across the globe, according to the Walmart website. The Winona store has 85 employees.
Sue Stidham, Winona Main Street director, said the demonstration was “a friendly, however serious, gathering with approximately 150 caring citizens who came together to protest the closing of our Walmart.”
“We want Walmart to know how we depend on them for jobs, our medicines, household supplies, clothes and the other many contributions they make to our area,” Stidham said. “Their closing will definitely have an impact to our area because of the loss of jobs, sales tax, and the draw from people outside of the area. However, with a concentrated effort from our citizens, our businesses and our elected officials, we can overcome this obstacle and move forward. We have two new restaurants that have opened recently. We have met with one of our other discount stores and they are planning a stronger presence and have a meeting with one of our other ones this week.”
Stidham said, “We must stand together strong and determined.”
Several voices in the community responded to a question on Facebook to share their opinion of the Winona Walmart closing and the economic impact they feel the closing will have on the community.
“Of course the closing of WalMart will affect the economy of Winona,” said Elizabeth Eldridge. “Think about it. The loss of sales tax revenue alone will have a drastic effect on the city budget. I’m sure those monies have already been included in the 2018 budget and to compensate, funds will have to be pulled from other areas. No telling what will have to be cut because of that lost revenue. 85 jobs will be lost. That will be 85 families who will have to find employment elsewhere. I seriously doubt even a quarter of those employees will be able to find a job in town. They will have to drive to Greenwood or Grenada to find employment and since they will already be there, that’s where they will spend their money. It won’t come back to Winona.”
Rob Turner said he felt the closing of Winona Wal-Mart would be “devastating.”
“The loss of 85 jobs, tax revenue and convenience will hurt tremendously,” Turner said.
Joey Anderson said the WalMart will “sure be missed.”
Jim Palculict said “what a shame (that the store is closing).”
“I stopped shopping at this store back in 2011 due to management,” said Patricia Boatman. “Posted sale prices wasn't given at the register, and I got fed up with the battle.”
But as for the locals, Boatman said,” I'm saddened mostly for those unable to go to neighboring Walmart stores due to cost and age.”
“It's a sorry day when Walmart closes with no regard to the faithful shoppers over the years, Boatman said. “They should have fired and replaced the manager /managers and given it a better opportunity to hold it open. I just hope Dollar General and Fred’s will increase their inventory and hold their prices down to keep the loyal local shoppers supplied.”