ST. PETERSBURG — The Walmart Neighborhood Market in St. Petersburg's Tangerine Plaza closed its doors to the city's Midtown residents for good on Monday, a month ahead of schedule.
Last month, the retail giant announced plans to close the financially struggling store at 22nd Street and 18th Avenue S on March 3.
While Walmart's pharmacy closed Wednesday, as planned, the store officially closed Monday after selling through its remaining products. The early closure is an effort to help employees perform final tasks in shutting down the building, said Phillip Keene, a regional spokesman for Walmart, in a statement.
"We are grateful to the customers who have given us the privilege of serving them at this location," Keene said. "We look forward to continuing to serve them at other area locations and online."
The closing continues what has been a long struggle to keep a grocery store in the Midtown shopping complex that can serve the neighborhood's low-income and predominantly black residents.
On Monday, the building stood vacant with black and green tarps covering the entrance doors.
"That store was essential to a lot of people's lifestyles," said Bryan Smith, an employee at the neighboring Fresh Nation Clothing store in Tangerine Plaza. "It was convenient for people."
Smith, a resident of the neighborhood, said he was used to a store not being there after grocer Sweetbay closed in the same location in 2013. He intends to walk longer distances to buy groceries now.
Danah Watkins, a former frequent shopper of the store, said she worries how the store closing will impact residents who don't have transportation to grocery stores that are farther away.
"It's pretty messed up," she said. "It was pretty convenient for a lot of people, especially for those who didn't have transportation. It was right in the middle of the heart of St. Pete."
A recent Tampa Bay Times examination showed there were several missteps in the city's handling of the location's lease with landlord Larry Newsome. The lease went into foreclosure last year with Newsome struggling financially. It'll be up for auction in March and the city has plans to take it over.
For now, many Midtown residents are without an accessible grocery store.
"It's quite difficult," said Jean Harmel Fenton, who shopped for groceries every day at the store.
Fenton, who doesn't have a car, said he now has to travel to a Walmart on 34th Street and First Avenue N, which sometimes takes up to an hour and a half.
"It's a very unfortunate situation," he said.
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