Supermarket closing in Appalachia follows Walmart announcement

Mike Still • Jun 15, 2019 at 6:00 PM

APPALACHIA — Wise County is seeing another store closing this summer.

The Save A Lot grocery store in Appalachia will close Sat., June 22, according to store employees. Wise County Administrator Mike Hatfield mentioned the closing to the Board of Supervisors at its Thursday meeting as he reviewed the situation with Walmart shuttering its Big Stone Gap store on July 2.

A Save A Lot employee at Appalachia said calls about the closing should be made to Houchens Industries.

Representatives of Houchens, a Bowling Green, Ky.-based company which owns the chain, did not return calls for information about the store closing or social media reports about the Save A Lot store closing in Pennington Gap.

The Appalachia store has been a Payless supermarket and IGA grocery store before its latest incarnation, and it is the only supermarket in town. Two other convenience stores and a Dollar General Store selling some packaged and frozen or refrigerated food items are open on the opposite end of town.

Aside from Walmart, Food City and Bob’s Market — all in Big Stone Gap — the closest grocery stores for Appalachia residents are in Norton.

Vinny Ringrose, manager of the Virginia Employment Commission office in Norton, said Friday he had not heard any information from Houchens about the Save A Lot closings. Later, Ringrose said VEC was aware of the Save A Lot situation as well as the earlier notice of Walmart.

On the VEC website, a list of federal WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act) notices included the Walmart closing posted June 10 but no notices regarding Save A Lot.

Under the WARN Act, companies with 100 or more employees typically must give a 60 calendar-day notice of plant closings and mass layoffs.

The Walmart store notice met the 60-day mark since employees are not scheduled for layoff until Aug. 16.

Ringrose said VEC works with local Career Works centers as part of a Workforce Team to offer laid-off employees training in job searches, resume writing and online job applications. Help with state unemployment insurance and career training is also provided through the team.

“We work on a principle of ‘no wrong door’ for anyone affected by a layoff or needing help with job search or career transition,” Ringrose said.

The Virginia Community College System also assists VEC with Rapid Response Teams to help laid-off employees, Ringrose said.

The Norton VEC office at 1725 Park Ave. SW also houses the Career Works Center serving Wise County and Norton.

Big Stone Gap Town Council Member Tyler Hughes, who has been involved with community demonstrations at Walmart after that store’s closing announcement, said another demonstration is planned for Saturday at the Powell Valley Square shopping center from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Hughes said Friday he has spoken with VEC staff about the VCCS rapid response team, adding that they were expected to start working with employees next week.

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