Lakeview residents have overwhelmingly voiced opposition to Walmart moving in, and took their message to the streets with a protest outside a former Petsmart store that Walmart wants to use.
A group of Lakeview East residents on Thursday repeated a reoccurring mantra that Walmart isn't welcome in their neighborhood.
They were joined by union reps and local labor organizers to speak out about a proposed, 31,000-square-foot "Neighborhood Market" planned to occupy a former PetSmart space at 2840 N. Broadway.
Earlier this month, Wal-Mart representatives said at a community forum that Lakeview can benefit from the groceries, pharmaceuticals and general merchandise the store plans to sell. But residents said the neighborhood's food market is already saturated.
On Thursday, union leaders reiterated that big-box chains hurt small businesses and that a new Walmart would be no different.
"These bigger name store have destroyed us," said Mark Thomas, owner of The Alley Stores.
Thomas came out in support of small business and said he's had to lay off many of his employees because of big-box competition.
Melissa Ryzy, of Local First Chicago, said the community is already dominated with business and needs more local stores. She also said Walmart doesn't represent good jobs or benefits.
"We can’t afford to have a neighbor like Walmart, because they pay less [and] we pay more," Ryzy said.
"I would love to see nothing but local business lining this strip. ... All these storefronts could be local, and the money could stay in our community."
Steve Restivo, a Walmart spokesman, responded to residents' concerns in a statement on Thursday. He said new chain stores tend to attract new businesses, including a West Side location in Chicago that saw new businesses open to take advantage of the big box's customer activity.
"Businesses there generally have products and services we don’t offer – or specialize in areas where we just can’t compete," Restivo said.
Chain representatives recently said the company is eyeing a River North location, as well.