Months after the Walmart Supercenter in the city’s Chatham neighborhood was damaged during days of unrest that followed a Minneapolis police killing, it will reopen Friday with expanded services, including a health center, officials said.
The retail store, located at 8331 S. Stewart Ave., plans to reopen Friday morning months after it was shuttered after the death of George Floyd in Minnesota ignited unrest around the country. People took items from inside the store, located just off the Dan Ryan Expressway.
Many in the community initially worried the national chain wouldn’t reopen the location, but weeks later Walmart announced it would.
“We have reflected on recent events and decided we want to stay,” wrote Doug McMillon, president and CEO of Walmart, in a statement. “And not just stay, but expand our investment. We want to return as stronger and more supportive part of the community.”
Ald. Howard Brookins Jr., whose 21st Ward includes the retail shop, had previously told the Chicago Sun-Times it would have been a “tremendous blow” if the store permanently closed because it had spurred jobs and prompted other retailers to open in the area. It had taken him two terms to persuade the retail giant to open a location in the neighborhood.
The civil unrest that took place earlier this summer plunged the area overnight into a food and pharmacy desert, said Nedra Sims Fears, the executive director of the Greater Chatham Initiative.
The group, a community-based organization trying to revitalize the economy in the area, estimates that residents lost about 17 stores — large and small — that still haven’t reopened since the summer or have closed altogether, Sims Fears said. Walmart is needed particularly during the pandemic when many people need a one-stop shop to get everything needed, she said.
“Having them come back is a godsend,” she said. “It’s really important for people to shop not only for groceries but for general merchandise, which can be more difficult to find.”
When the store opens Friday, customers will find a new health center that will provide primary care services such as physicals and vaccines, said Haresh Desai, of Walmart Health Operations. The big box’s location in Austin, at 4650 W. North Ave., will offer similar health services, making them the first stores in the state with the additional health care offerings. The Austin location is also reopening Friday.
For now, Medicare and Medicaid can’t be used, though the store is working on accepting those insurance plans, Desai said. A primary care visit will start at $60, and the store plans to add dental and hearing services, he said. The space will include community rooms where health workers could host workshops on conditions such as diabetes, though those programs will be on hold for now because of COVID-19 restrictions, he said.
“We felt like it was a good opportunity when we made the decision to remodel the stores to also continue to help the community here in the Chicagoland area,” Desai said.
People can make appointments online or by phone at 773-687-5284.
The reopening comes as new restrictions imposed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker go into effect in an attempt to curb the number of COVID-19 cases. Big box stores that include general merchandise and groceries will have to operate at 25% capacity. Grocery stores and pharmacies can operate at 50% capacity.
The Walmart in Chatham will open with pickup and express delivery services available, according to a news release.
Elvia Malagón’s reporting on social justice and income inequality is made possible by a grant from the Chicago Community Trust.