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New Walmart store brings concerns to small W. Mich. town

PAW PAW, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Some local store owners in Van Buren County are concerned that Walmart will drive them out of business.

The new store is being built right now in Paw Paw, near I-94 and M-40.

Construction started in August on the 20 acre site.

The new superstore is bringing mixed reactions in the community. The American flag already is flying proudly over the new Walmart store.

The construction has the small town talking.

Something different, businesses are always good, said Michelle Sabo of Lawton. 

They seem to be excited about it, said Sarah Owens of Paw Paw.

Newschannel 3 got an inside look at the massive superstore.

This Walmart will be smaller than most, but will have a full line of groceries, clothes, electronics and health products.

We are on schedule inside the building, and outside the building we'll be a few weeks behind because of the cold weather, said Project Superintendent Steven Johnson. 

Walmart says the store will bring 300 new jobs.

The location of it being off of 94 and M-40, two very popular highways, and then the town of Paw Paw, I think this will be a good store for them, Johnson said.

But many are concerned that customers will be taken away from small businesses.

Some actually have made some changes and or left because they know they won't be able to survive, said Joe Romph, owner of Paw Paw Village Pharmacy.

Downtown Paw Paw already has several empty storefronts.

The Downtown Development Authority is trying to stay upbeat, hoping the big-box retailer will bring more shoppers into the area.

It is even working with businesses to help them compete with the retail giant.

Paw Paw Village Pharmacy is gearing up.

We are trying to do more advertising so people know that we're here and that we offer things that are not offered at a big box store like that, said owner Joe Romph.
    
Romph said one of those things is personal service.

We're very big on family; we're very big on personal service. Between Brian and I, we probably know 95 percent of the people who come in here, Romph said.

Shoppers that Newschannel 3 spoke with are mindful of this and plan to still frequent smaller stores.

I would probably mix it up, Sabo said. 

Right now shoppers in the area have to drive 30 minutes to get certain items.

If I quickly need a present for someone, clothes, something like that so we don't have to drive all the way to Kalamazoo, Owens said. 

They say this part of Van Buren County is a dead zone for retail.

It will obviously be cheaper, but you also get what you pay for too, Sabo said.

Walmart expects the new store to open sometime this summer.

Theres word yet on when the hiring will take place.