Locals don't fear competition as Westfall WalMart gets supersized

| 29 Sep 2011 | 08:02

WESTFALL - While shoppers lapped up the fanfare and hoopla at the Walmart reopening, Jan 27, local merchants seemed unphased by the prospect of the store’s expansion. In fact, reaction from area businesses bordered on cocky. Some people wondered if the competition from a new food market might be a problem for local merchants. Only one of three grocery stores in nearby Port Jervis is still open. And the bankruptcy of Grand Union left the Westfall Town Center store empty. In addition, New York business owners smart at the thought of shoppers slipping across the state line into Pennsylvania to take advantage of a lower sales tax. Would WalMart then, be the straw that broke the camel’s back? No, said area businessman Tom Luhrs who owns the nearby Luhrs’ Hardware Store. Luhrs did suffer some loss of business when Walmart initially began drawing away customers. But “we weathered the storm,” he noted. “The opening of (Walmart’s) food section won’t hurt us at all.” In fact, any trepidations about the expansion could have been expressed at the initial public unveiling of plans for the project. But, the Westfall Township permitting process to okay the expansion of 125,000 square feet-- more than double its original size -- didn’t draw any public expressions of concern. Price Chopper last year opened a new store in Matamoras. Manager Mark McAfee exuded confidence. “Our prices are extremely competitive and we carry a much larger line of perishables than they do. I don’t think it’s going to affect us much here.” Pike County Chamber of Commerce head Dave Wilson was even more positive. “Big box stores like WalMart, Home Depot and Lowe’s” are a natural part of the growth of Pike County. “It is part of the mix of our area’s tourism industry, where much of the business activity involves sole proprietorship businesses like restaurants and craft and antique stores. “The big box stores provide jobs and convenience to a growing segment of our population,” he said.