Walmart announced Monday that the company is planning to close its store in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, prompting a group of local residents to rally to keep the store open Tuesday.
Residents protesting say the closure could cost the small community up to 80 jobs. The Bristol Herald Courier reports residents carried signs with slogans such as “PEOPLE OVER PROFIT” and “SWVA matters! Corporate Greed does NOT!”
Walmart said it hopes to transfer the majority of the employees to other Walmart locations in Jonesville and Norton, which are 25 and 13 miles away respectively, but that did little to ease the community’s concerns.
Tyler Hughes, a member of the Big Stone Gap Town Council, told the Herald Courier that the closure “is an incredibly disappointing moment for our community from a local government perspective but also from a resident’s perspective. Most of us in the town have a family member or a friend or someone we’ve known for quite a while working here.”
Walmart said it couldn’t reach an agreement with the landlord on terms for a lease renewal on the property. The landlord, Landmark Properties Group, released a statement saying it was “surprised” by Walmart’s abrupt decision and that negotiations had not progressed to a discussion of dollar amounts.
The company also claimed that Walmart seemed intent on closing the store, despite Landmark’s best efforts to reopen negotiations.