Big Stone Gap town leaders react to Walmart closing announcement

Walmart announces a new in-home grocery delivery service. /: (MGN)
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BIG STONE GAP, VA (WJHL) - Walmart has announced that it will not be renewing the lease on its store in Big Stone Gap this fall.

The store will officially close its doors for good by July 12th.

The Big Stone Gap Community is hoping to change Walmart Executives' minds about the announced closure.

City leaders and others were outside of Walmart on Tuesday protesting and asking people to sign petitions to keep the doors of the store open.

Big Stone Gap citizens and leaders received the surprising news Monday. Mayor Gary Johnson is just as shocked as everyone else.

He said he got a call on Monday morning from a Walmart representative.

"I received a call from Washington, DC from a lady who represents Walmart. S​​he informed me that she had bad news that they were going to close down our Walmart. At first I though it was a joke. Then I realized that she was very dead serious about it. This store came here in 1984. It is the oldest and the first Walmart in the state of Virginia. She informed me that Walmart had trouble negotiating with the lease. So our Town Manager, Steve Lawson, made a phone call or two and found out they haven't even contacted the leaser," said Mayor Johnson.

The City Manager, Steve Lawson, said that as soon as he heard the news he reached out to state officials.

"It's one of our main retail places as far as gross revenue. The mayor and I immediately went to talk to Walmart representatives. We've contacted our legislators and the governor's office to help us work out everything we can to keep our Walmart here," said Lawson.

People were protesting Tuesday at the Walmart including Tyler Hughes, a member of the town council.

"​​​​​​​Losing 80 jobs in Big Stone Gap is the equivalent to losing seven thousand jobs in Virginia Beach. Many of our residents here feel like it's a local, small business for them because this Walmart has been in our community for years, " said Hughes.

A resident of Big Stone Gap and a frequent shopper at this Walmart location says it's going to affect more than just her shopping.

"I think it's going to be a big hit to our small town. We need these jobs. We already struggle to keep people employed. We're a small town, so we all know each other, and when these things happen it affects all of us," said Kathy Rowles.