Business owners vexed by Walmart rumor

county_itawamba_greenBy Adam Armour

Itawamba County Times

MANTACHIE – Rumors that Walmart may be opening a small store in Mantachie have some of the town’s business owners upset.

In early April, The Itawamba County Times reported that Walmart may be eying Mantachie to open one of its pilot small-format Walmart Express stores. During last week’s regular meeting of the Mantachie Board of Aldermen, a group of about 10 local business owners expressed their concerns about that possibility.

“I think it’s no secret why we’re all here; we’re concerned about the largest retailer in the world coming into our town,” said Chuck Wood, who said he represented the group as a whole. Wood and his wife, Millie, own several area convenience stores.

“Historically, the numbers show that when Walmart comes into a small community, small businesses like ours suffer,” Wood continued. “If history repeats itself like it has all across America, my family – all of our families – will be wondering what to do next. What would we do? Where could we go?”

Wood’s words were echoed by his fellow area business owners. If Walmart shows up, they said, small businesses will die.

“Walmart is not just coming here to compete; Walmart is coming here to put us out of business,” said Alan Cates, owner of Mantachie Foods.

Wood said he worries about the possible domino effect Walmart’s presence might have: Walmart runs small businesses out of business; the small businesses can no longer support community organizations; the community organizations can no longer function without the help of small businesses; the community, as a whole, suffers. They also expressed their concerns about increased traffic and crime.

“It’s our cry to you before the final nail is put into the coffin on this deal. Do your research and see what’s going on,” Wood said.

At this point, however, the concerns could be somewhat premature. According to Mayor Jeff Butler, he was contacted by a Memphis-based engineering firm about constructing a convenience store on property located off Highway 371, across from Delmar’s. The firm requested details about the town, such as zoning, water flow, local ordinances. Questions about which company the firm was representing went unanswered.

Butler said he has heard through several sources that the company might be Walmart, looking to open one of its Walmart Express stores in the area. These stores are intended to breech the market in small towns that aren’t big enough to support a full-size Walmart, and bigger cities where it’s impractical to build a supercenter.

Walmart CFO Charles Holley said last month at a retail conference that the company plans to open up to 120 of its Express stores this year.

Walmart Express stores average about 15,000 square feet and stock 11,000 to 13,000 items, compared to about 100,000 items in a typical supercenter. A typical Walmart supercenter averages about 184,000 square feet.

Butler said all he knows for certain is that the proposed store will be about 12,000 square feet in size, and will likely feature a small selection of groceries, a pharmacy and a couple of fuel pumps. Representatives from the firm originally stated their intentions to present site plans at last week’s meeting, but were delayed in the plans’ preparations. They are expected to appear at a future meeting.

Beyond that, Butler said, everything is up in the air.

“We haven’t heard exactly what it’s going to be,” the mayor told the crowd. “Honestly, none of us know for sure, … It’s hard for us, as a board, to deal with this until we know what it is. I’m 99.97 percent sure it’s Walmart, but I’m not 100 percent. Until something is submitted, it’s just hearsay.”

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  • facts

    Lord for bid Wal-Mart selling gas! If it was not for Wal-Mart this country would be gouged more than it already is!

    • TWBDB

      Wal-Mart is perhaps the largest corporate contributor to the economic struggles we have in this country. They’ve driven all suppliers to produce the cheapest products with the leanest resources : where is the quality ? where is the commitment to US manufacturers ?

  • facts

    Competition is GOOD! Deal with it!

    • TWBDB

      A little competition is good: a monopoly on competition isn’t competition at all.

    • Jack Makokov

      Yes, competition is good. Let me know when any other local businesses get at least $1M in subsidies per year like Walmart stores get from the communities where they set up shop.