Midtown St. Pete Wal-Mart draws applicants by the hundreds listen10/07/13 Janelle Irwin
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Wal-Mart will open a neighborhood market in midtown St. Petersburg by January, providing 95 jobs and the area’s only grocery store. Monday morning more than 200 people stood in intermittent rain waiting for their chance to apply for one of the spots in the new store. Mary Cummings got there at 6:30 to beat the crowd. The elderly African-American woman said from a lawn chair that she already has a job at a laundry mat, but isn’t making enough money to support herself.
Standing next to her was 21-year-old Sharhara Singletary. She said she just moved back from Mississippi after going to school there and is hoping for any job she can find.
The story was much the same throughout the line, Midtown residents struggling to make ends meet looking for whatever work they could find. After being criticized for not doing enough to keep the Sweetbay Supermarket that used to be in the shopping plaza where Wal-Mart will soon open, city officials, including Mayor Bill Foster, congratulated themselves on the progress.
Officials have referred to midtown St. Pete as a “food desert” since Sweetbay closed its doors early this year. The Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market that will open by January will provide an oasis in the community where many residents rely on public transportation or taxi cabs to grocery shop. Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch was one of several elected officials to work on bringing Wal-Mart in to the community.
But not everyone is completely sold on the idea of Wal-Mart being heralded as a win-win for Midtown. Kofi Hunt, a St. Petersburg activist, said the stores opening should coincide with other job creation opportunities that provide higher wage jobs and benefits.
There are other projects officials hope will continue to revitalize the predominantly poor Midtown area. St. Pete City Council member Karl Nurse’s district doesn’t include the Wal-Mart, but residents in his district would be among those who would shop and work there.
More than half of the people applying for the Midtown Wal-Mart store won’t be offered jobs. But other stores opening in the coming months throughout the county will offer as many as 400 more jobs. That includes stores in Largo, Clearwater and Pasadena.