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PANA — Pana Mayor Donald Kroski got a phone call from a Walmart representative Wednesday morning alerting him that the store in his community would be closing Oct. 12. His phone kept on ringing throughout the day as residents heard the news and wanted to know what could be done and what the future might hold.

“Pana will still be here. It will survive. It will just be a little bit harder,” he said, repeating the sentiment he had shared several times with callers.

A Walmart official said the decision to close the store was part of the company's ongoing evaluation of its business.

“Retail is changing,” said company spokeswoman Anne Hatfield. “We need to make sure we have the right store mix.”

For Pana, that means closing a business that has been a part of the community for 30 years, Kroski said.

Hatfield said one of the factors at play was the size of the Pana store, which was opened prior to the supercenter format being adopted. That means limited space for the growing selection of products, including grocery offerings.

This is the second Walmart in the region to close. The company closed its Clinton store in July.

The Pana store employs 85 associates, many of which Hatfield said may transfer to other area locations. She also said associates will work with pharmacy customers to have their prescriptions transferred.

Clinton city leaders, residents alarmed by news of Walmart closure

Kroski said the call he got from the company was light on details, but he knows the availability of several Walmart Supercenters within 30 miles of Pana and changing shopping habits worked against the community.

He said the community still has access to a major food retailer, so that won't be an issue. However, residents will miss ready access to extensive selections of things like clothing and electronics.

As for filling the vacant spot, Mary Renner, executive director of the Christian County Economic Development Corporation, said the group stands ready to assist in any way possible.

Initially, that will mean getting information from the property owner about their planned use for the building, cost and when it will be available. After that, the group can share the information through the various networks at its disposal.

While area stores have closed, it doesn't signal a retreat by Walmart.

“We are still growing and investing in the state,” Hatfield said. "This year we will spend $56 million throughout Illinois to simplify how people shop.”

The Walmart on Prospect Avenue on Decatur's north end and the store in Mattoon are those in the state benefiting from the investments.

The Decatur improvements included renovations to the pharmacy and installation of new refrigeration. Pick-up for online orders has been relocated to the front of the building for easier customer access. The electronics department also has been revamped.

The improvements to the Mattoon store included the region's first Pickup Tower, which acts like a high-tech vending machine allowing customers pick up their online merchandise in less than a minute after ordering through their phones.

Kroski wasn't sure how much revenue the city will lose from Walmart's departure, but figures it will be the topic of discussion at future city council meetings.

He also offers these words of advice for all communities.

“Every small community in the state should ask themselves, 'what would happen to your community if your largest contributor to your community left,'” he said.

City of Roses: History photos from Pana's past

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Contact Scott Perry at (217) 421-7976. Follow him on Twitter: @scottperry66


Deputy Night Editor

Deputy night editor for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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