Let’s go Brandon: Chicago exodus accelerates as Walmart closes four stores

Posted: April 16, 2023 by John Ruberry in business, crime, economy, News/opinion, opinion/news, politics
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By John Ruberry

Some big news came out of Chicago on Tuesday. For the first time since 1996, and only the second time since the riotous year of 1968, the Democratic National Convention will be held in Chicago next year.

But more consequential news arrived Tuesday as well. America’s largest retailer, Walmart, announced it was closing four of its Chicago stores, half of its city presence. These outlets lock their doors for good tonight.

Chicago’s relationship with the big box giant has been a hate-love-hate one. In the early 2000s, the term “food desert” came into use to describe areas without access to fresh food, but really, what theses apologists were talking about were neighborhoods where supermarkets pulled out because of high crime, mostly shoplifting. In their place sprang small stores, family-run operations usually owned by people from the Middle East, or south or east Asia. Of course, these merchants charge shoppers more for goods because, without the volume discounts that the retail behemoths enjoy, they have to. 

And it was in the early 2000s that Walmart, and its primary big box rival, Target, wanted to open stores in major cities like Chicago. Target, even though like Walmart is non-union, got a pass from the opposition–the Chicago City Council and its union allies–because Target is a creature of the left. Walmart’s corporate philosophy was decidedly conservative then. So the City Council, that failed body that sees one of its members convicted on corruption charges every eighteen months or so, passed an anti-big box retail store ordinance in 2006, which Mayor Richard M. Daley vetoed. I believe it was his only veto in his 22 years as mayor. 

So Walmart arrived in Chicago, opening eight stores, some of them in impoverished areas. That’s the love part. 

And now for more hate. 

Widespread looting during the George Floyd riots in 2020 hit Chicago retailers hard. North Michigan Avenue, one of America’s premier luxury shopping areas, was devastated by a second round or looting two months later, igniting a retail exodus. As for Walmart, all of its Chicago stores were shuttered, four for two months. Two other stores, including one of the outlets that closes tonight, in Chatham on the South Side, were shuttered for six months. The Chatham location, a supercenter, was also set on fire. On this weekend’s edition of Fox Chicago’s Flannery Fired Up, host Mike Flannery said of the Chatham outlet, “It was virtually destroyed.”

Now it and three other Walmarts are closing.

Late last year, Walmart’s CEO, Doug McMillon, decrying shoplifting, particularly thefts conducted by organized gangs, issued a general warning. If local law enforcement didn’t do their job, “prices will be higher, and/or stores will close.” He added, “It’s just policy consistency and clarity so we can make capital investments with some vision.”

Last week, in response to McMillon’s comments, WIND-AM’s Dan Proft remarked, “That is a very vanilla way of saying ‘We can’t do business in a place that doesn’t enforce the rule of law.'”

And in Chicago and elsewhere Walmarts are closing because leftist public officials refuse to enforce the rule of law. Two weeks ago Chicago elected a neo-Marxist leftist, Chicago Teachers Unions product Brandon Johnson, as mayor. What did Johnson, then a Cook County commissioner, say about looting in 2020? He refused to denounce it. In fact, Johnson minimized it because looted businesses have insurance.


The mayor-elect was a defund-the-police proponent, until this year, when he wasn’t. Johnson favors something he calls “Treatment not Trauma,” he wants to send social workers instead of cops to domestic disturbances.

In a press release announcing the closings, Walmart said, “The simplest explanation is that collectively our Chicago stores have not been profitable since we opened the first one nearly 17 years ago – these stores lose tens of millions of dollars a year, and their annual losses nearly doubled in just the last five years.” Hey, but at least, as Johnson pointed out, Walmart has insurance. Of course, insurance companies never lowball claims, they never raise rates, and they never cancel policies due to risk factors. Right?

As for Johnson, he’s off to a wretched start as mayor-elect. In his first national media interview after his runoff win over moderate Democrat Paul Vallas, Johnson blamed large companies for Chicago’s high crime and poverty rates. “We have large corporations,” Johnson replied when asked about criminality in the city, “seventy percent of large corporations in the city of Chicago — in the state of Illinois, did not pay a corporate tax.” That’s probably false–and while Chicago does have sales and property taxes, it doesn’t have a Detroit-style municipal income tax. Johnson claims he’s against a city income tax, but in a February Flannery Fired Up appearance, he repeatedly dodged questions on whether he supports one.

The day after the store closings were announced, Fox Chicago reported that six televisions were shoplifted from the Chatham Walmart. In a way, the five-finger-discounter was participating in a going out of business sale.

Chicago’s meddlesome priest, the obnoxious and bombastic Father Michael Pfleger, is one of the loudest voices condemning the Walmart closings. He is threatening to lead a boycott of a Walmart supercenter located just outside of Chicago’s city limits. Good lord, Pfleger is a bigger goof than I thought. If that suburban Walmart closes because of a boycott, it will mean one less shopping choice for Chicagoans–and an even larger food desert.

Tyson Foods, Boeing, Citadel, and Caterpillar are among the corporations who have recently closed offices in Chicago and its suburbs. As I mentioned earlier in this post, North Michigan Avenue is dying because stores are shutting down. Chicago’s population is declining.

The Chicago Exodus began in 2020. It’s accelerating now.

One more thought: On Saturday night a very large group of what the media called “teenagers,” thugs is a better word, descended on downtown Chicago. They smashed car windows, set some vehicles on fire, and two people were shot. I call that a riot. One woman watched helplessly as her husband was beaten by a mob. There was a similar gathering the night before at a South Side beach.

Chicago’s criminals are emboldened.

Hell has arrived. I’ve seen what an urban hell looks like. It’s called Detroit.

Let’s go Brandon!

John Ruberry is a regular suburban Chicago Walmart shopper who blogs at Marathon Pundit.

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