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Wednesday, 26 October 2011 20:56

Hello Walmart Supercenter; hello vacant Walmart shell

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When Walmart of Franklin moves from U.S. 441 to its new location next spring, at least two — perhaps three — of the other businesses in Holly Springs Plaza will move right along with the retail giant.

That’s not a happy prospect for the strip mall’s nine or so remaining tenants. Those business owners are looking at working in a virtual ghost setting if new merchants don’t come in to fill the void of those leaving.

The Walmart Supercenter will be at the corner of Wells Grove and Dawdle Mountain roads, just off the U.S. 441 bypass on a 33-acre site.

“This place will pretty much be empty,” said Jordan Myers, an 18-year-old Franklin native who works at Cato in Holly Springs Plaza. Her job, via her employer, is making the shift with Walmart to the new site, along with Shoe Show, and, reportedly, Dollar Tree, though officials in that store declined to comment. “Maybe people will put some boutiques in,” Jordan said.

Maybe.

But that didn’t happen in Haywood County in November 2008 when Walmart made the move from Clyde to Waynesville to build a new super store. In Haywood County, Walmart left behind a huge, vacant building with an equally huge, vacant parking lot in front.

Finally, in early 2010, Haywood County’s commissioners decided to purchase the vacant shell to house the Department of Social Services and Health, which had long awaited a move from their aging facilities. The new county offices will cost taxpayers an estimated $12.5 million. A facelift of the building is under way now.

Franklin Manager Sam Greenwood said the soon-to-be-vacated building in Franklin is serviceable, and could possibly be repurposed for another company.

Maybe.

There is some talk about town that Ingles might acquire the shopping center, and build a larger grocery store to compete with Walmart.

“It’ll shut this place down,” predicted Irene Hughes of Walmart’s impending move.

The Franklin resident was overseeing a Toys for Tots collection drive from a site in the Holly Springs Plaza.

Hughes currently drives to neighboring Clayton, Ga., to a Walmart Supercenter there for groceries. Though she’s not a fan of the new Franklin site because it might cause traffic problems for two nearby schools and people making their way through the area, she readily admitted, “it’ll be more convenient than driving to Clayton.”

“And, it’ll mean more jobs, because they’ll need more people,” Hughes said. “But what about all these places that will be sitting empty? What will happen to them?”

Indeed.

“It’s great to be one of the retailers going, and not staying,” said Ali Travis-Bonard, assistant manager of Shoe Show. “I’m really looking forward to it — we have a space issue here.”

Unlike Hughes, Travis-Bonard believes Walmart’s site selection for the new store is “ingenious — because everyone needs to go for something at Walmart after school.”

Kim McCloud, who works for U.S. Cellular in Holly Springs, is one of the retailers staying when Walmart leaves. She, however, isn’t particularly worried.

“We have a steady base of customers, people who have been with us for awhile,” McCloud said. “I really don’t think it will hurt us.”

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