Local shoppers say they'll miss the market's low prices when it closes its doors for good today

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Large banners herald the Jan. 28 closing of the Walmart Neighborhood Market on Jean Way. Many of the 64 employees will be relocated to other Walmart stores, the company said.When you think of Lake Oswego, you probably think of a small, upscale community with strong support for local businesses. And when you think of Walmart, you probably think of a huge corporation with monolithic superstores and a reputation for low prices.

You also might think the two don’t go together. But according to customers at the Walmart Neighborhood Market on Jean Way, the store has filled a niche in the community, and many residents said this week that they are surprised and sorry to see it go.

“We were excited to have it come into the neighborhood,” said Amanda Trappett, a shopper who said she’s been going to the store since it opened in October 2012. “I’ve got teenage boys at home. You’ve got to feed ‘em, right?”

The store, which employed around 90 people when fully staffed, will close its doors today as part of a massive restructuring. The shuttering of 269 stores in the U.S. and abroad will affect more than 16,000 workers.

“There were certain stores that just didn’t meet the metrics for success, including the Lake Oswego store,” said Walmart spokeswoman Delia Garcia.

Walmart said it plans to focus on strengthening Supercenters, optimizing Neighborhood Markets in profitable markets, growing its e-commerce business and expanding pickup services for customers.

The company said it hopes to relocate employees to other nearby Walmart stores. Where that isn’t possible, the company said, it will provide 60 days of pay, severance in some cases and resume and interview skills training.

The Lake Oswego closing on Jan. 28 will affect 64 workers, the company said, with layoffs effective as of April 15. In the meantime, employees have been slowly clearing out the shelves while trying to sell off as much remaining inventory as possible.

“I didn’t have any inkling that they were going to close. It seemed like a needed alternative to have a low-cost store in the area,” said Grace Dyck, who moved to Lake Oswego about six months ago and said she shopped at Walmart because of its convenient location and low prices.

Other shoppers agreed, saying they were happy when Walmart opened the Lake Oswego store.

“We’re not Walmart fans to begin with, but this one — it’s been wonderful,” said a shopper named Sharron. She said she’ll probably switch to Fred Meyer or Grocery Outlet, rather than venturing to nearby Walmart Supercenters in Sherwood or Tigard. “You’d have to drag me there,” she said.

West Linn resident Claude Bonfiglio said he was “very disappointed” by the closure, and said it comes at particularly bad time.

“It took a while for this community to grow. Lake Oswego is not really known for this price range,” he said. “Walmart is missing the boat. It’s just starting to catch on. We need a store with these kinds of prices in this area.”

The lack of similarly-priced alternatives was a concern shared by several customers.

“There’s a presence in this community that really finds value in this store,” said a shopper named Judy. “Not everyone can shop at Zupan’s. It’s a shame we’re losing it, although I can understand the economics within the corporation.”

Others spoke positively about the employees at the Jean Way store, and said the quality of the customer service set it apart from other stores.

“The clerks are really nice. You kind of build a relationship with the staff here,” Trappett said. “It makes it feel more like a mom-and-pop market instead of a big retail store.”

Store employees were notified of the closing on Jan. 15, said they were caught by surprise, too. “I never thought this location would close,” an employee named Versie said. "I never thought a Walmart would close."

The Review spoke with three employees, none of whom said they were given an exact explanation for the store’s closure.

“It was a good place to work. I think they just got tired of having to pay the high rent,” said one employee who asked not to be identified. “Walmart doesn’t rent; they buy things.”

Many of the employees said they’ll take Walmart up on its offer to relocate as many employees as possible to other stores. “I’m staying with Walmart — they have another job for me,” said Harley Tallon. “It’s actually closer (to where I live), so it works out to my benefit.”

Even though the closure was unexpected, most of the employees said they weren’t very upset by having to switch stores.

“It’s going to be okay, I think,” said one employee. “I’m going to miss it. I like working in Lake Oswego, but it takes a lot of gas to get here.”

A woman who identified herself as the store’s manager declined to comment, citing a store policy that requires all media contact be cleared at the corporate level. A representative for Walmart’s corporate media relations team later told The Review that the company would not allow interviews with individual store managers.

“It’s a difficult decision to close stores,” Garcia said, “but it’s necessary to maintain a healthy business.”

Contact Anthony Macuk at 503-636-1281 ext. 108 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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