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Walmart closes Blue Earth store
September 10, 2017

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"Through careful and thoughtful consideration, we've made the difficult decision to close the Walmart store located at 1210 Giant Drive in Blue Earth."

That was Walmart's Corporate Communications Manager, Phillip Keene's official statement on the permanent closing of the Blue Earth Walmart store location.

Rumors flew around town last Tuesday as the store covered the left side of its storefront in a large "store closing," sign.

"We have been, and will continue to be, supportive of our local store leadership and associates, and this decision is in no way a reflection of their hard work and customer service," stated Keene. "We opened this store in 1987 and we are proud of how associates have served and contributed to the local community over the years."

The Blue Earth store location was one of the very first Walmart stores in the state of Minnesota, opening its doors 30 years ago and having just had an update to the store roughly one year ago.

"This tough decision to close the store is based on a number of factors, including financial performance and strategic alignment with long-term plans," said Keene on behalf of the Walmart Corporation. "At this time, we plan to close the store to the public by Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017. The Walmart Pharmacy will be open to customers through Sept. 22. Our pharmacy staff will work with customers to transfer prescriptions to another convenient location as soon as possible."

Keene went on to say that the decision to close the Blue Earth store was not an easy one, but as the Walmart Company, they are committed to continuing their growth and investment in Minnesota.

"We operate more than 80 Walmart stores and Sam's Clubs in Minnesota and have invested millions of dollars in the state by remodeling five stores last year, and a total of six more by the end of this year, while opening associate training academies across the state and recently launching Online Grocery Pick-Up."

Which is all well and good, for a large corporation, but for the small town of Blue Earth, the concerns are big.

"If our dollars go to Fairmont or Mankato areas when we go shopping, how will our little town survive," asked one resident of Blue Earth when viewing the Walmart's sign outside of its store.

The other questions arose when rumors of Blue Earth's Dollar General location would also be closing, but, according to general manager of the Blue Earth Dollar General location, Shantille Edgington, there are no plans to close the local Dollar General.

"We have spoken with our management, and as of today, there is no close date set for the future," said Edgington. "We will be here to serve the Blue Earth community with their needs."

This statement comes just weeks after the Dollar General chain opened up a brand-new store location in neighboring Winnebago.

With close to 80 employees stationed at the Blue Earth Walmart location, Keene says those associates will be given opportunities to be employed in other locations such as Albert Lea, Fairmont, and Mankato.

"Based on history, between voluntary retirements and severance, transfers and supported transitions to other jobs, we hope there will be minimal job loss overall," said Keene.

One Blue Earth Walmart associate stated the day was filled with tears and lots of questions. Employed families now have to face whether to stay in Blue Earth and find other employment, or potentially uproot their families to move elsewhere.

"I get it, it's a big corporation," said one Walmart customer. "But we are a small town with a large population of folks who can't drive 20 to 40 miles away to go to a Walmart. I just wonder what's going to happen to Blue Earth after this."

Corporate calls began to be conducted throughout the city of Blue Earth early on Tuesday morning as the Walmart corporation began to publicize its official closing date of Oct. 3. They even gave Blue Earth's City Hall a ring to inform them of the change.

"We were informed by corporate about the unfortunate change," said city administrator Tim Ibisch. "The City of Blue Earth is certainly not thrilled to hear this news, but we are looking forward to working with corporate to make sure their employees are taken care of."

Ibisch went on to say that though the closing of the store did come as a surprise, he says many of the small cities around the area, including Fairmont and New Ulm, have seen corporate stores closing their doors with added pressure from online buying.

"We will do the best we can for what is best for our community," said Ibisch. "We aren't sure as to what the final result will be for the property or the building, but we look forward to finding new business to fill the Walmart location."

Tim Clawson of the Faribault County Development Corporation adds that he and his staff have been proactive in working with the Walmart corporation and Fairmont's Workforce Center to ensure employees of Walmart's needs are met.

"We are also trying to connect with the owners of the property to see what we can work out in the future," says Clawson. "This is not good news, but we cannot let this drag us down. We will be working on creating a small subcommittee to truly address all of the concerns with this loss in our community."

Mayor Rick Scholtes was on the same page as Ibisch and Clawson as well.

"As a company, Walmart has had a great impact on our community, not only as a store, but as a sponsor for many town events and fundraisers, their presence will definitely be missed," he said. "As a small town, we have a great community. We are resilient and we can get through this together as a community."

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