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News From The Village Updated Almost Daily
January 15, 2016
The WalMart Express just on the edge of Oriental is shutting down on January 28, as are the 101 other WalMart Express stores that the giant retailer opened in recent years in a “pilot” project. Walmart announced today that it was ending the “pilot” and closing its Express stores. That news came in a release from Walmart HQs, titled “Walmart Continues Sharpened Focus on Portfolio Management.”
In Oriental, where the experiment known as store #7207 was conducted for 20 months, the news stunned many. But not all.
Some had welcomed the big retailer and its small grocery store, while others tried to stop it from coming, citing concern for independent businesses. Oriental’s WalMart Express Store (#7207) opened in May 2014 and less than a year and a half later Oriental’s only one-stop independent grocer threw in the towel, overwhelmed by the competition. With #7207’s closing, Oriental will be without a one-stop grocery and will be without a pharmacy as well.
This turn of events prompted Carol Small, Doug Sligh, Chris Kiricoples, Walter Vick, Rick Smith, Ben Casey, Tom Lathrop, Greg and Kathi Gonya, Walter Lane, Iris Cooper and Mark Clardy, Jim Privette, Ken Laser, Allen and Leigh Price, Jon Glaser, Wally Moran, Cheryl Kinkle, Larry Summers, Elizabeth MacDonald, Peg Vick and others to write.
To the Editor,
The Walmart issue in Oriental is only one location out of hundreds. We are not alone. Since this is widespread, I think it is a story 60 Minutes would be interested in. Oriental is a prime example of the repercussions. I attempted to contact them via their internet site, but after writing, it would not go through. I will try again. Perhaps if several of us do, they will cover our story and it will give another community food for thought. And maybe a small grocer will see an opportunity.
To the Editors;
Thanks for all the Letters to the Editor on this subject grouped together. I particularly liked the one from Chris Kiricoples suggesting we publicize this nationally. To this end I did a quick search for “small town grocery stores” and came up with part of the website for the Center for Rural Affairs. I would be glad to contact them and see if they have any ideas about how best to publicize our situation. Or maybe Chris Kiricoples, of Bath, NC, would like to get involved in bringing this story to a bigger national audience.
Just outside Oriental (.8 miles or less from local businesses)
To the editor,
While I have pretty thick skin, the personal attacks in “Town Dock letters” and “Facebook” directed toward the town and county commissioners, including myself, has started to upset me. I fall somewhere in the middle of the political spectrum but I am largely a fiscal conservative. I voted to give water to Walmart because there were at least three ways that they could have sued the Town of Oriental if we refused. We were in the middle of a lawsuit concerning our new town dock that ultimately cost the Town about 1/6th of our annual budget. None of the supporters of the expansion of our boating facilities offered to donate one penny to help us in that lawsuit. I would have expected that same level of non-support if Walmart had sued us. None of the local media chose to point out that issue during the Walmart debate. It appeared to be more desirable for them to discuss the “moral” issues of having a Walmart in our town. They certainly had the right to do that but as elected officials, the other commissioners and myself, had a fiscal responsibility to protect the town from another potential lawsuit. There was even an effort to increase property tax rates to fight the existing lawsuit. I was opposed to that and, in fact, opposed to any tax increases unless absolutely necessary. Not all of our commissioners felt that way.
Yes, I am unhappy that Walmart made a business decision to close over two hundred stores. It seems to be the norm that US businesses in the current era don’t consider morality in their business decisions. A lot of people have made a lot of money because of that attitude. Courts, however, ignore morality issues and make their decisions based on law. This action by Walmart, however, could turn out well. There is certainly interest in purchasing or leasing the Walmart building. We could end up with a locally based store in a nice modern facility that would meet most of our needs and desires. I sincerely hope that is the end result.
Larry Summers served as an Oriental Town Commissioner from 2011-2015.
Letter writers may take issue – civilly – with actions or decisions with which they disagree. TownDock.net’s policy is to publish letters so long as they are civil. Editor
Like many others in eastern North Carolina, I share the disappointment over the loss of a family-owned business and, most recently, the added unemployment that the Walmart corporation has left in its wake.
You may be aware that a group in Swansboro has been fighting a proposed Supercenter that will lie directly adjacent to two of our public schools with a third directly across the street. The traffic implications and threat to our children’s safety are huge concerns. Many of us are afraid for our existing businesses and dread the environmental impact on our small town.
Despite these very real fears, there are still those who are blinded by the promise of low prices and convenience and would welcome this development with open arms. They give no thought to the long term effects or the possibility that in a few years, we may see the same situation that Oriental is currently facing. (Additionally, months of correspondence urging the company to consider a safer location out of town and away from our schools have been blatantly ignored by its executives.)
I join Mr. Kiricoples* in urging you to promote your story as widely as possible. While it may be too late to save our own towns, there are countless other communities that can use this experience to educate officials and citizens BEFORE Walmart comes calling. Perhaps one of them will avoid becoming another statistic under the steamroller of corporate greed and predatory business tactics.
- whose letter dated 1/15/16 is below. -Ed.
You know me, I’m one of the many cruisers who enjoys Oriental’s hospitality every fall and spring on my trips back and forth on the ICW. Let me thank you all again for that hospitality, you make Oriental a very special place to be.
One of the reasons I enjoy your town is that provisioning for groceries is – make that, WAS – so easy.
But you let WalMart in, sort of, and now you’ve gotten screwed by their closure. No one is happy about this, with good reason. Also, it looks like your town officials may not have handled this as well as they might have, giving WalMart town services without paperwork to back up the deal. There are questions that need to be answered here, but before you castigate anyone too much, let me say that I see that decision as a reflection of Oriental. You are a town that treats people as you would wish to be treated, and not everyone conducts themselves that way. Don’t be too hard on the people who made decisions that, upon reflection, might not have been the best. You – Oriental – are better than that.
And before anyone rails too much about corporate games – let me ask you this: how many of you drove out to the Wal Mart to enjoy those lower prices, that greater selection? How many of you abandoned the LOCAL store that had served you for so many years?
How much is that costing you now, in terms of time and inconvenience?
Hopefully, as Oriental works this through and solves it – as I know you will – you’ll remember the lesson learned here.
Lower prices DO have a cost.
See you again in the spring on the way north.
s/v Gypsy Wind
Letter to the editor:
I am writing this letter as an outsider looking in on the situation. I am not a resident of Oriental, nor am I even a resident of North Carolina. I discovered Oriental, as many did, looking for a good restaurant near Camp Sea Gull.
This week, I was excited to hear the news of the closing of the Oriental Wal-Mart. While I am not excited for the around thirty individuals who had lost their part time jobs at the Wal-Mart, nor am I excited for the inconvenience that this will cause to Oriental residents; I am excited as to a cancer on the town of Oriental has been killed.
It is well known that Wal-Mart has a long history of selling products that are produced in China, along with bad business practices.
It is also well known that Wal-Mart has caused businesses like Town’ n Country to go out of business.
However, the focus of my grievances is my calling for the Town of Oriental to change. The Wal-Mart should be a wakeup call to the community and the Town Board. I believe the Board had no ill intent when they voted to allow Wal-Mart to tap into Oriental’s water and police resources even though they paid no taxes to the town.
It is said that a verbal agreement was made between Wal-Mart and the Town to pay Oriental the equivalent amount that Wal-Mart would have to pay in property taxes if Wal-Mart was in the limits of Oriental. However, according to towndock.net, Town manager Diane Miller said that Oriental never recieved a payment from Wal-Mart.
Unfortunately, I do not believe that Oriental will be able to recoup the few thousand dollars that should of been paid to them by Wal-Mart, simply because Wal-Mart did not violate a documented agreement.
I would like to call on the town council to understand that all agreements need to be documented, especially when the results could affect the entire economy of the town.
I would also like to call on everyone reading this to sign a petition, to ask Wal-Mart to donate the building that they are abandoning to the Town of Oriental.
College Park, Maryland
Leigh and I would like to support the people of Oriental who will be hurt by the closing of WalMart, which is the only full-service grocery store and pharmacy in town. We also ask the community to support the Dollar General, Provision Company, Farmers Market and other Oriental businesses to ensure Oriental remains a vibrant community, with access to necessary products and services. Leigh and I are proud to take the lead.
We will need a list of people who do not have the means of getting basic needs that WalMart previously provided. Once we have this information, we can begin planning the logistics required to support the community, including a combination of transportation to and delivery service from grocery stores and pharmacies in the Bayboro area. We will also contact area churches and organizations for volunteers and support. Because we are a boating community, we will assist visiting boaters as we can as well.
We are asking for volunteers so we, as a community, ensure we help anyone that needs assistance. This should be a temporary need between WalMart closing and new businesses opening, at which time we’ll turn our attention to fully supporting those businesses.
We ask that people in need and volunteers to please call 252-249-1361 or email me at email@example.com so we can help.
Allen and Leigh Price
Allen Price began serving his first term as an Oriental Town Commissioner in December.
To the Editor,
The Town Commissioners’ decision to welcome Walmart was based, in part, on providing the poor residents of Oriental with an inexpensive place to grocery shop. I wonder where those poor people who don’t have cars are going to shop now. Perhaps the town can provide free shuttle service to Grantsboro? Just a thought.
It would be good to have a review of quotes from the commissioners who so generously accommodated Walmart. Larry Summers, Barb Venturi et al should be recognized for their roles in this.
(The other members of that Town Board in 2013, in addition to Larry Summers and Barbara Venturi, were fellow Commissioners Michelle Bessette, Warren Johnson and Sherrill Styron and Mayor Bill Sage. Editor )
To the Editor,
While not yet a full-time resident of Oriental, we bought property here because we enjoyed the small town charm of this sailing community.
I have to seriously question the wisdom and negotiation skills of a town board that essentially negotiated all of the town’s rights away without any recourse or benefit to Oriental. I have negotiated large contracts throughout my almost 30 years with the Federal Government – what happened in the Walmart case here just blows my mind.
For the town to stay viable we need to think beyond the harbor and consider the needs of the entire community. Without a local grocery store the town is NOT viable for many. Is the current Board contemplating any outreach to see if a store could be attracted to this community? Entering the town to boarded up businesses doesn’t do much for the town or our property values.
While I am appalled at Walmart’s tactics, it is time to think into the future and make Oriental what it could be.
Iris Cooper and Mark Clardy
Oriental part-time residents
To the Editor,
The closing of Walmart Express in Oriental was expected and is going to make life very difficult for a lot of people, especially the employees that will lose their jobs. The promise of 60 days pay after closing is something but not a job.
Maybe the closing is a blessing – let’s think positive. Maybe a real neighborhood grocery store that cares about the residents of Oriental will open and stay. Like the Village Hardware, Brantley’s, Silo’s, M&M’s, Provision, The Bean, and Buddy at the seafood shack.
A Real Grocery store will be an asset to Oriental. Think positive that a great change is coming to Oriental. Negativity is a disease – look at the coming national election.
Last year we had the opportunity to stay in Minnesott Beach from the last week in January through the first week of March. We shopped at the Town & Country at least once a week for 6 of those 8 weeks.
We are from Central New York State where Wegman’s Markets rule the roost of grocery stores. We choose to not trade with Wegman’s because it is too big, too noisy and not customer friendly. So we trade with the number three chain in the area. Smaller, a bit more expensive, but more personable and a much less stressful experience, like what we found at the Town and Country.
We read with sadness that 7207 pressured the Town and Country to shutter their business. We generally found everything we needed there, and if they did not have it, we really didn’t need it that much any way. We stopped at 7207 once. We went in, walked the aisles and walked out finding it a not very appealing layout, and kind of disorganized.
We are coming back this winter beginning next week and planning on staying through the middle of March. We hope that somehow a grocery store will reopen within the village of Oriental. I know in this day and economy it is difficult for an independent to make a living let alone a profit. But hopefully the folks of the village and surrounding area will encourage and support an attempt to reopen the T & C or something similar. I know we would be there through out our stay, should something be available.
Greg and Kathi Gonya
So a monster business has placed corporate interests above any concern for effects on anyone outside the corporation. My goodness, what did we expect? It’s really simple. A Chief Financial Officer of any big corporation only looks at the bottom line and that bottom line is “return on investment”. Any part of the business that does not return a level of profit commensurate with the rest of the product line is in real danger of getting the axe.
While the parking lot as well as people in the checkout lines at Walmart in Oriental always seemed to be very busy, I’m sure the small size and the cost of maintaining the grocery stock containing a large amount of perishables is less profitable than superstores which carry items other than groceries that have a higher profit margin and don’t go bad on the shelf. Since our Supreme Court has defined corporations as people, perhaps we can sue that “person” for the damage that has been done to the town businesses and people of Oriental. Dream on.
An irate cynical response? Of course it is and well-deserved too. As others have said, some of that ire should be reserved for local and other government agencies that aided and abetted Walmart in their “experiment”. Did they, or could they, not foresee that experiments, by their nature, often fail.
I will miss the pharmacy and the staff of friendly and helpful people who have served my substantial needs really well while they were here. I feel sorry for the many other workers in the store who have also been always courteous and helpful. As a practical person, I do not apologize for buying from Walmart and always hoped that T&C could develop a business model that would allow them to continue. Whether Food Lion and Piggly Wiggly will be able to stay profitable, I have no idea but do see that they have improved their service following the opening of Walmart just down the road.
Perhaps the Oriental Food Initiative movement will now have sufficient impetus to make real progress that would have been much less likely if Walmart was staying. Certainly Oriental can support a local grocery outlet but the landscape for that kind of venture has changed since the time when we had multiple small local choices. It will require some hard-nosed business sense to make it both profitable as well as serve the needs of Oriental and surrounding residents. I believe the opportunity exists for a local viable grocery market but it will need some creative thinking to be successful. A boutique market may be viable but it will not serve the broader needs of this end of the county. T&C is not the first grocery store, nor will it be the last, to close due to competition from other larger and more financially secure operations.
Just outside Oriental
It would be interesting to determine how many small local grocery stores in the vicinity of the Walmart Expresses that are closing have been closed recently. Subsequent to that information, would be to determine how many larger Walmarts are nearby to absorb all of the business that was once the business of now-closed small independent stores and the closed Walmart Express stories.
In other words, did the Walmart corporation consider placing Walmart Expresses around to drive local businesses out of business, only to close them once the local businesses were closed, driving all the business from a specific area to a larger, nearby Walmart – which is certainly what has occurred in Pamlico County – with the cost of building the Express stores and subsequently closing them – simply the cost of doing business to get more business at another, nearby, larger Walmart?
That is not only plausible, but probable. I have not read other perspectives put forth after learning about the closing in Oriental, but retail corporations in America do everything for a reason. The method to achieve a goal may not be obvious, but whatever is done is done with one obvious purpose in mind, absorb all the retail business that it can.
To the Editor,
Anybody want to help me remove the graffiti-filled plywood on Town and Country and put it on the WalMart building? On the Town Hall?
Fitting, don’t you think. Any volunteers?
Just outside Oriental—-like WalMart.
To the Editor
The bulldozer effect of Walmart. A number of years ago when small towns in Vermont were fighting Walmart they commissioned a study that among other things identified towns around the country where Walmart had moved in, undermined local businesses, then decided they were not making enough money and closed leaving the town not only with no Walmart but none of the local businesses that previously serviced the town.
As opposed to local businesses, Walmart has the ability to payoff/ write off its ill-conceived ventures.
The same study identified that once the effect of the loss of local businesses was taken into account the net gain from Walmart moving in was 7 jobs and $34,000 on the tax base (This was before the Express stores).
I pointed this out to the governor, legislature and Department of Commerce several years ago when the Department of Commerce provided 1 million dollars each to several small towns in eastern North Carolina to put in the infrastructure needed by Walmart to locate in the town. I asked to see the economic justification for using taxpayers money to subsidize one of the wealthiest corporations in the country in the process of wiping out local businesses who for all practical purposes had provided that money. Ironic.
Needless to say there was no study, only the political machine at work. Per E.F. Schumacher regarding business, “small is beautiful”.
I want to commend you on today’s detailed coverage of the Wal-Mart closing, the fact that they reneged on their promise of financial assistance to the village, and that they stayed in Oriental just long enuf to drive Town and Country out of business. If they had just been able to hang on a few more months!
My wife and I have been frequent visitors to Oriental over the past 8 years, having kept both power and sail boats in the local marinas. We originally brought our boat to Oriental for canvas work, and loved the village so much that we never left. We have traded extensively with most of the businesses and restaurants, and shopped for weekend supplies nearly every Friday at the T and C. The results of Wal-Mart’s ‘experiment’ is morally offensive to me, and has had terrible consequences for many people—-and it may get even worse for the employees who were just let go.
The real purpose of my letter is to urge you to promote this story on a much bigger scale…and I don’t mean just in Eastern NC. This is a story with national implications, and documents the impact of corporate greed on a small town and its people. Please consider sharing this story with a bigger national audience. How many stores—-and small communities across the country—-will be impacted by this decision? It’s just wrong!
To the Editor,
So, the last item on my list of “What will happen if Walmart opens” has come to pass. This event has given me mixed feelings . First, I am angry for all “heartbreak, hurt, and stress” Renee was forced to endure while so many shortsighted former customers fell for illusive savings. Now they have no place to shop.
I am also torn by the urge to say ugly things to the Town and County Commissioners who represented our interests so poorly. They should already feel shame for what they could have done, but did not. We need to demand better than that in the future.
I am also hopeful another retail grocery will see the profit potential of a store in one of those two buildings. Maybe it will be a chain that cares more about the community it serves. As for Walmart, good riddance. I withheld my money from them, so if you lament their closure, I am partly to blame. I bear it without shame.
1/15/16To the Editor,
Well it is bad form to say, “I told you so,” but at the very first news of WalMart coming and then the meeting where we could meet with the Walmart executive I kept saying that we did not have the population to keep a WalMart Express going.
I predicted the closing of Town and Country because of the WalMart competition, and then the closing of WalMart. But everyone thought I was a bit daft.
I have folks who live near me who have no car and have always counted on being able to walk to get groceries and pharmacy. Some people in town are very cavalier about all of this and say, …”well I shop at Food Lion or Piggly Wiggly…”, but I think this whole boondoggle is a travesty.
Perhaps they have no problem with the empty businesses or the inconvenience of driving 10 or so miles for bananas or whatever they need for that recipe, but it does affect others differently. Now what do we do? Or is there anything that can be done? Zoning in the county?
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