Lamesa and Brownfield will be without Walmart in the coming weeks after the big-box retailer announced it was closing two stores on the South Plains.
A Walmart spokesperson said the leases on those two locations would not be renewed. The store in Lamesa is expected to shut its doors in mid-October, as the lease is up October 31. The Brownfield store will close by the end of January 2017, the spokesperson said.
“Initial reaction was a little bit of shock,” said Lamesa Mayor Josh Stevens. “It’s not every day when one of your major retailers walks into your office and says ‘We’ll be leaving in the next couple of weeks.'”
“It’s very hurtful to our community and we’re just really saddened over it,” said Walmart customer and Lamesa resident Brenay Kimbrough.
“We’re kind of just blindsided by the whole thing,” she said.
The store closures leave 75 workers unemployed in Lamesa and 80 people looking for work in Brownfield.
The next nearest Walmart stores are about an hour away from Dawson County. The stores in Brownfield and Lamesa opened in 1987.
“Our priority right now is to take care of the employees,” said Walmart representative Anne Hatfield.
Hatfield explained that the company would be working with the employees on resume building and interview skills training in an effort to find them other opportunities.
“We are a big enough town to hold a Walmart, so I don’t see what the problem is,” Kimbrough said. “It’s just such a disappointment.”
Stephanie Rabon, another Lamesa resident and regular Walmart shopper said she makes routine trips to Lubbock for other reasons.
“I’m going to have to get my act together, my lists and other things like that so when i go to Lubbock I’ll be more organized when i get there,” Rabon said.
“When i heard about the store closing it was like a slap in the face to us,” said Lamesa resident Bill Martin.
Stevens said Walmart’s departure could turn have positive outcomes in the long-term after the initial shock subsides.
“Lamesa is going to be just fine. We’re a resilient community,” he said.
“When a Walmart comes into a small community they do hurt a lot of your local mom-and-pop shops as well as your other businesses, but with Walmart not being here now, I think that our local mom-and-pops and other retailers that have smaller stores may look to take the big step and really flourish and expand,” he explained.
City leaders in Lamesa gathered a task force to attempt to attract a replacement retailer to fill Walmart’s void.
“We have a very vibrant community, we have a very strong community, and this is not the end of the world,” Stevens stated.