Harps coming to former Seligman Walmart

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Grocer to take over Walmart building, bring lost jobs, tax revenue back to city

Five months after Walmart announced it was closing a newly-built store in Seligman, the property will soon have a new tenant -- Harps Food Stores.

Based in Springdale, Ark., Harps is a chain of 80 supermarkets strong across Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas. The stores are supplied by Associated Wholesale Grocers.

For the city of Seligman, which lost revenue from the previous Walmart Neighborhood Market vacating a property it built and occupied for only a few months, the announcement brings good news.

"It's really good news," said Seligman Mayor Garry Thornton. "There are a lot of people who live in the community that don't have the means of going to Cassville to the grocery store when they want to, so it will be nice to have a store in the community again. It's also going to put jobs back in the community and hopefully bring some revenue to the city so we can improve upon what we've already got started. It will probably be next year before we see any revenue come of it, but that will be alright.

"And, the people I've talked

to in the community are excited that another retailer is opening up here, and the building won't go unutilized."

J. Max VanHoose, vice president of store planning for Harps, said he will be able to share more details about the store once the acquisition is completed.

"We anticipate closing the transaction with Walmart in a week or two," he said. "Until that time, specific information about the stores or openings won't be finalized."

VanHoose said the Seligman community was a good fit with the Harps chain.

"We're not that far from Seligman, so we're real familiar with these markets," he said. "We have stores across southern Missouri, such as Thayer, Malden and Alton, so this type of community was in our trade area. In terms of looking at the potential opportunities of these locations, it was a natural fit."

In the wake of challenges with the city's aging water system, potential water rate increases looming to pay for much needed repairs, and decreased morale in the community over job losses and lost revenue when Walmart announced plans to leave, the unexpected revenue the grocery store chain will bring comes just in the nick of time.

"Any business is good for the community, and especially seeing how many jobs it fires up, that's the exciting part," said Brian Nichols, Seligman city clerk. "If it does anything like what Walmart did, you could be looking at $3.5 million in taxable sales. I think people will be happy to see something local back in. Now, they will have somewhere local to go."

Thornton had said during his mayoral campaign that one of his goals as new mayor of the city was to find another tenant for the vacant building as soon as possible, but Harps beat him to it. The Seligman location will be one of nine properties they are purchasing from Walmart, and one of three in Missouri. Other stores included in the state are Anderson and Noel. The chain is also purchasing properties in Arkansas, including Gravette, Gentry, Prairie Grove, Cedarville, Mansfield and Charleston.

"They got a hold of us before I could contact them," Thornton said.

"They stopped in here one day about a month ago and asked about getting a construction permit for the modifications they wanted to do," Nichols said. "I didn't read much into it, because no one said it was absolute, and they finally just announced it."

An opening date or number of new jobs the store will create has not yet been determined, but Nichols was told that the company plans to hold interviews beginning July 9 at the community center, and that new employees will be in the store training in early August.

VanHoose said depending on the community, some Harps stores carry additional merchandise, but the Harps chain is primarily a grocery store.

"We do have a few stores in some rural communities where we have some general merchandise such as hunting or fishing supplies or ammunition, but it's not one of our core products," he said.

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