ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) - Walmart announced plans on Tuesday to close its neighborhood market in midtown St Petersburg. The store on 22nd Street South opened its doors just three years ago.
In a statement, Walmart officials wrote:
"After a careful and thoughtful review process, we have made the difficult decision to close our Walmart Neighborhood Market on 22nd Street South in St. Petersburg.
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 over the last three years.
This decision is based on a number of factors, including financial performance and strategic alignment with long-term plans."
Walmart said the store will close to the public on Friday, March 3. The pharmacy will close a month earlier on February 1.
The news came as a surprise to both customers and city leaders, who said they were not made aware of any sign of trouble for the business.
"We've been in contact with management at the store constantly, trying to monitor how things are going, see what we can do as a city," said St Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.
Six months ago, the city agreed to spend $2.2 million to purchase the Tangerine Shopping Plaza, where the Walmart is located.
The area has struggled to hold onto a grocery store and various other businesses for several years. The Walmart replaced a Sweetbay Supermarket that closed in 2014.
"Anytime you lose a business anywhere in the city we don't want to see that happen. Obviously, in South St Pete, we are working really hard to bring businesses into the community," said Mayor Kriseman.
Shopper Lennis Mitchell, who lives just a few blocks from the Walmart, said other grocery options are several miles away, making it difficult for the many residents without transportation to shop.
"A lot of people commute by walking. We've got a lot of handicap in wheelchairs," said Mitchell.
"People sell lottery tickets and stuff like that right [in the plaza], but they don't have nothing to eat. Pretty soon, it's going to be more rain than sunshine down here," said resident Tony Drayton.
Mayor Kriseman said he plans to talk with Walmart officials to see if there's anyway to prevent the closure, but the city is already looking for alternatives.
Leaders hope to attract another supermarket giant to the plaza.
"If they end up leaving, we hate to see them leave," said Kriseman, "We'll work hard to bring somebody else in there and bring business back to that community."
Walmart officials said employees at the Neighborhood Market could be relocated to other stores.
Tuesday's news of the closure came on the same day Walmart announced plans to hire about 10,000 new associates nationwide. Walmart officials did not specify the cities or stores where the new positions are coming.