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If you decide to close a store, you're a racist POS.

Where does Walmart get off spending millions of dollars building four stores and decide to lose money! No it doesn't work that way. When you open up a store in Chicago, it's for f-cking ever. You lose money, doesn't matter. You either stay open or risk the rath of Father Pfleger and other community leaders.

They're going to run you out of town on a rail, for err....deciding to get out of town. Hey, wait a minute?

South Siders slam Walmart over plan to close stores, threaten protests at other Walmarts

Community leaders at the Chatham Supercenter question the abrupt announcement of four Walmart closures this weekend: “If they’re going to walk out on us, we’re going to walk out on them.”

By Michael Loria, Suntimes

The Chatham Supercenter, with the Walmart Health center and the Walmart Academy, located at 8431 S. Stewart Ave., is set to close down Sunday along with three other Chicago Walmarts.

Ever since the South Side Walmart Supercenter in Chatham opened, Frankie Griffith has been walking there to shop for whatever she needed — groceries, clothing, even dental appointments — and on Thursday she returned to fight for the chance to keep doing so.

The retail giant announced this week it would close that location, at 8431 S. Stewart Ave., along with smaller stores in Kenwood, Little Village and Lakeview.

Sunday will be the last day for all four locations.

The announcement Tuesday sparked outcry around the city, particularly for the Chatham area, where Walmart has become a hub for everything from appliances and toys to prescriptions and health appointments.

“The issue is having a nice, decent place we can walk to,” said Griffith, 72, wearing a pair of prescription sunglasses she bought at the store. “It should stay.”

The Chatham resident was among dozens of South Side residents, community leaders and elected officials protesting the planned closure outside the store Thursday.

Frankie Griffith, 72, attends a protest at a South Side Walmart over the company closing the site. 

Frankie Griffith, 72, joined other protesters at a South Side Walmart Supercenter on Thursday. Walmart has decided to close that Chatham store, which includes a health clinic. Griffith said she has walked to the Chatham Supercenter to shop since it opened almost two decades ago. It is the biggest of the four Chicago stores the company plans to close by Sunday.Michael Loria/Sun-Times

Many on hand questioned the move given recent investments in the supercenter. The location was hit hard by rioting in the days after the killing of George Floyd, when protests erupted around the country. But rather than closing, as many feared, Walmart refurbished the store, added a primary care clinic and commissioned a mural for the building that celebrated the history of the neighborhood.

The protest Thursday took place in front of the building, next to the mural.

“Two years ago, when they reopened this here, they were very loud and clear,” said the Rev. Michael Pfleger, “‘We’re here, we’re committed to his community, we’ll continue to serve you, grow with you and be partners with you.’”

Today, those words ring hollow, Pfleger said.

Pfleger, the prominent pastor of nearby St. Sabina Catholic Church, said that after coming in almost 20 years ago and driving out local mom and pop stores, the company would leave the community with nothing.

“Now the bully pulls out and says it doesn’t want to be here anymore, to leave our community with a large empty building and a desert of resources,” he said.

Walmart said in its announcement that it was shutting four sites in the city because the company’s stores in Chicago overall have been “unprofitable,” losing “tens of millions each year,” and yearly losses have almost doubled since 2018.

Looking at the busy parking lot, Pfleger and the others were skeptical and questioned why the company didn’t make other adjustments, such as eliminating the self-checkout option, which sometimes creates opportunities for theft.

“If there were challenges, talk to the elected officials,” said state Sen. Elgie Sims, whose 17th District includes Chatham. “Talk to the community leaders.”

The only calls he’s received, he said, were from constituents.

“My office has been inundated with calls from seniors asking where do I go for our medicine, from mothers asking where do I go for food,” said Sims.

Walmart has said it would connect employees at the stores it’s closing with jobs at other Walmarts, but incoming 4th Ward Ald. Lamont Robinson lamented the jobs within the community that would be lost.

“We should not have to go outside our community to find jobs; we should not have to go outside our community to shop,” Robinson said. “Today is a travesty.”

Barring an about-face from the company, the group declared it was ready to protest at other Walmarts around Chicago and beyond.

“The same Black and Brown people who made this store will be the same ones who walk away,” said incoming 6th Ward Ald. William Hall, pastor of St. James Community Church in Chatham. “If Walmart does not invest on this land, we will go from Chicago to Indiana to Michigan” to protest at other Walmart stores.

Pfleger said they might start by protesting and calling for a boycott of the Walmart Supercenter on West 95th Street in Evergreen Park.

“If they’re going to walk out on us, we’re going to walk out on them,” said Pfleger.

The calls for action were met by cheers from the crowd, which included everyone from local seniors to high school students.

Malcolm Box was among a group of students from Leo High School in Auburn-Gresham that was given permission to skip class to attend the protest.

Box, 16, said he had long shopped at the store and remembers it as the place he went for toys when he was younger and now visits for toys for his nieces.

He said he learned the supercenter would close when he was at the store with his mother Wednesday and was shocked to see how the mood at the store changed.

“You can see everything leaving the shelves, everyone rushing in, everyone trying to get what they can, to buy what they can,” Box said.

For those outside the community, Walmart might just be another store, he said, but on the South Side and in his life, it has come to symbolize something more.

“People need to know how big a community it is here and how little we have,” he said. “Stores aren’t just somewhere you buy things, but somewhere you can take your family, for good prices, for Christmas presents.”

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