NEWPORT, AR (KAIT) – The town of Newport is abuzz after Wal-Mart annouces it's building a Supercenter. The new store should open by early summer next year.
Store Manager Ron Mergy says the Supercenter will be constructed along Highway 367 across the street from the Newport Fire Department. The new store will be about 120,000 square feet, almost twice the size of the current store in Newport.
"Newport needs to grow, like the rest of the towns. We need to catch up," Shawn Brunner said.
Brunner owns the Endless Summer Tanning Salon, which is located in front of the vacant lot set to become the Supercenter. She says she is excited for the new store because it will change her business for the better.
"Here at the Endless Summer, we're going to be right next door to the Supercenter now," she said, adding, "Need a tan? Come on in and then go to the Supercenter and go shopping."
Mergy says the new store will also devote a space to Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton. Walton began his sales career in Newport, opening a Ben Franklin store downtown in 1945.
"We desperately need it, so it can't be anything but a plus for us," Vickie Williams of Newport said.
Williams' older sisters got their first jobs at Walton's five-and-dime store, and she is ecstatic for the new jobs coming with the Supercenter.
"I think it's got to help our economy," Williams said. "We certainly need a boost, don't we?"
Debbie Wilkerson moved to Newport six years ago, arriving disappointed to find no Supercenter in town. She and her husband will no longer have to travel to Batesville or Jonesboro to do one-stop shopping.
"It'll benefit the people, but I'm afraid for some of the grocery stores," Wilkerson said. "I'm afraid they won't be able to compete, and that's a shame. But, hey, bring it on. I'm ready."
Other residents, though, share Wilkerson's fear that the local economy is set to take a hit.
"Once we get the Supercenter in, it's going to cut out a lot of business for Kroger, Price Chopper, Walgreen's," Christopher Davis of Newport said. "It's going to really hurt a lot of businesses more than help somebody."
Mergy adds that he is unsure how many new jobs will be added by the Supercenter, but Mayor David Stewart says anything that creates jobs is great.
Construction on the new store should begin this spring.