We understand that members of the Ellenville community may question our appeal of the trial court's decision to allow the Walmart project to proceed. We want our customers and the residents of Ellenville to understand why we remain committed to pursuing this case in spite of opposition by some members of the community.
When word got around that a big box chain was bringing a fifth superstore to the area, we were approached by concerned local citizens. They were hoping we would support them as they fought for their businesses and livelihoods in a town that has been hit hard by the recession.
Their concerns echoed ours — that their businesses would be swallowed up and the town they lived in and loved would be forever changed. We understood their concern, because we live here too.
ShopRite has been part of the Ellenville community since 1993. In the last year alone, both financially and through donations of food, time and volunteers, we've supported dozens of Ellenville's educational and community organizations including the Ellenville High School, the Ellenville School PTO, the Senior Citizens Center, the American Legion and the Committee for Families of Iraqi War Veterans, to name just a few. We helped Project Playground build parks for our children and donated pet food to the local animal shelter. We give generously, because the quality of life in the community matters to us, too. Our home base is right down the road in Florida, New York — not hundreds of miles away. What happens here matters to us and our associates.
That's why we are so disheartened by the accusations that ShopRite is "standing in the way of progress" and that we are impeding job growth. Nothing could be further from the truth — here are just a few of the facts. It is well documented that when a big box store comes to town, it generally siphons a large percentage of its sales from existing businesses. In the case of Ellenville, that number is estimated to reach 70 percent. There's no question that ShopRite will be impacted by this new store, but so will dozens of other businesses in the community. As these longstanding businesses are unable to compete with a multinational firm, they'll shutter their doors or reduce their staff. Currently, the ShopRite of Ellenville employs 180 associates; these are union jobs with competitive wages and generous benefits — the same cannot be said of our competitor. When all is said and done, the community is likely to see a zero net gain of new jobs.
There are numerous statistics that tell what happens when a big box store comes to town. A 2004 study estimated that the "nationwide cost to American taxpayers for police to respond to calls for service at Walmart stores or parking lots was $77 million."(1-See below) The same study estimated that over a five-year period (2006-2011), that cost is estimated to climb to nearly a half billion dollars. There is no question that Ellenville's own resources will be strained and any gains it hopes to achieve from the presence of this new retailer will quickly be lost. So will the Ellenville community really be better off with the presence of a big box retailer? We say no.
People say we are taking this action only to protect our own sales. But the community needs to know that the Ellenville store does not produce significant income for our company — we run the store at break-even levels. If the truth be told, it might be easier for us to close-up shop and cut our losses. But instead, we're choosing to continue to pursue our rights because we are committed to the community we serve.
If ShopRite leaves Ellenville, what leaves with it is the sense of community embodied by so many other local businesses — a belief that what happens locally affects us all. We don't manage from a distance, because we live here, too.
We recognize that Ellenville has been hit hard by the economic downturn but it will not find its savior in big box retailers. Let's work together to secure Ellenville's future in a way that will not destroy its past.
1 Crime and Wal-Mart – Is Wal-Mart Safe?" An Analysis of Official Police Incidents at Wal-Mart Stores. May 1, 2006 by WakeUpWalMart.com, Washington, DC.