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Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Community In Crisis

Announcement of Beall’s Closing Is Having Widespread Impact
By Sid Riley

A few days ago the executives of Bradenton based Bealls Department Stores announced that shortly after Christmas the Marianna store would be closing. Since that momentous announcement, there have been widespread instances of serious repercussions in the local community resulting from that impending action. Many local citizens, especially women, have experienced severe depression, a diminished ability to function, and an overwhelming sense of betrayal.
For instance, my own wife, Judy has been severely impacted by the situation. She now spends day after day just sitting looking blankly at the television set, slowly turning her credit card over and over. This started after she was found wandering aimlessly through the store, gingerly fingering the clothing on display. The store staff tenderly escorted her from the store and she hasn’t been the same since.
Down the street at the home of Jim Harkins a similar pattern has developed. Toolie Harkins just roams the house going from closet to closet and saying over and over, "What will I do? What will I do?"
Last week Tom Sanson lost track of his wife, Juanita. He finally located her sitting in their car in the Bealls parking lot, looking forlornly at the building and sobbing hysterically. Polly Roberts has been trying valiantly to hold up under the strain, lending a supporting hand to her friends and fellow shoppers…however, her husband Jim states that she, too is beginning to cry herself to sleep. Libby Hutto, normally a voracious cook, has not prepared a family meal in two weeks. Her husband Roy has lost ten pounds and has begun to beg Libby to cook. Libby just mumbles something about moving to Tallahassee, and walks away.
Dr. Steven Spence has informed the Jackson County Times that in his practice he is having to treat an alarming number of area women who are suffering extreme depression. The number of victims is growing daily and at a recent medical meeting the malady was given the name, "Bealls Syndrome".
The crisis is also impacting the dental community. Dr. Robert Payne has told the Jackson County Times that his practice has seen a dramatic upsurge in the numbers of women with chipped and broken teeth coming to him for treatment. It seems that many women, in an angry response to the announced closing, have become "gnashers of teeth". This is causing extensive tooth damage and has actually been a boon for the dental care business. There is one problem for Bob though, his own wife Suzanne recently broke one of her molars.
Pat Hart, a great community organizer and a person that will not sit back idly while things deteriorate, has begun to take a leadership role in this matter. She is reportedly organizing all of these desperate area women and is preparing to lead a motorcade to Bradenton, with the intent to picket the corporate offices.
The announced closing has truly created a community crisis in Jackson County. The emotional impact rivals the condition realized when Graham Air Base closed here in the 1960’s.
In a more serious vein, I have discussed the matter with several community leaders who actively work on behalf of industrial development for Jackson County. County Commission Board Chairman, Chuck Lockey, and Marianna Mayor, James Wise, have expressed their concern over the closing of the store, and have expressed a willingness to assist in every way possible to retain Bealls in our community. Bill Stanton, Director of the Jackson County Development Council has also expressed his willingness to work to retain the store here.
One suggested step would be for Stanton and a selected delegation to meet with the Bealls executives to be sure the company officials have an accurate and clear perspective of what is happening here. This would include demonstrating the fact that Marianna is a growing shopping centre for the tri-county area, especially the rapidly growing retail area developing at the I-10 interchange. New malls, the Super Wal-Mart, Lowes, restaurants, motels, and other retail stores are moving into this area at a rapid pace. Also, it appears that a new call center operator is on the verge of leasing the old Wal-Mart building (in the Bealls mall location) and creating jobs for some 300 citizens there. This would help revitalize the existing Bealls location.
It has been stated the new Bealls stores are much larger than the existing Marianna store. Bill Stanton could discuss planned new malls in this area and the possibility of a new Bealls store being one of the key occupants of one of these new malls. We encourage everyone involved to take time to fully evaluate the plans of the community and needs of the company before time runs out on this decision.
Bealls corporate offices are located in Manatee County (Bradenton). That is where local residents Ernie and Lydia Padgett lived and worked for twelve years. Ernie served as their County Administrator during that time. Consequently, they both know Mr. Robert Beall personally. Lydia recently spoke with Mr. Beall about the planned closing. During that conversation she stressed the fact that Bealls is the most popular clothing store in town, and if it is closed it will be sorely missed by many. She appealed to him for further consideration of the decision. After this story is published, Lydia plans to contact him again. Let’s all wish her luck!

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