If you take the last train to Clarksville, you’ll find a Wal-Mart. But not for much longer. On the Clarksville, Texas website, the town has not updated its census data since 1990, when the population stood at 4,311 people. The old-timers in town describe Clarksville as “a wilderness broken by an occasional dirt road and train tracks.” The Texas Historical Commission’s Community Heritage Development Division named Clarksville as a Main Street in 2003. The program began in 1981 and is affiliated with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Out on Highway 82 west you’ll find Wal-Mart discount store # 142. You can tell by its number that it was one of the early Wal-Mart stores — one of the first in Texas. But according to station KTBS, the Wal-Mart in Clarksville, Texas, will be closed at the end of the year “because of sagging sales.” Wal-Mart has been in Clarksville for more than three decades. The store has 65 people working there. KTBS says many of the employees will get severance packages or offers to transfer to other Wal-Mart stores. They could work at the supercenter 24 miles away in Idabel, Oklahoma, or at the supercenter 26 miles away in Paris, Texas. City leaders in Clarksville claim that Wal-Mart has groused about the under-performing store for years — but finally pulled the plug. Some of the residents of Clarksville have been trying to convince the Wal-Mart Main Office in Bentonville, Arkansas to keep the Clarksville store open. They started a petition, they wrote letters to Bentonville — all without result. “Wal-Mart has been part of the community for the last 30 years,” a Wal-Mart spokesman said. “We toiled hard with this decision.” But Clarksville City Manager Doug Smith found a silver lining in Wal-Mart’s cloud. Smith figures that with Wal-Mart gone, it will give smaller retailers a chance to come into town. Like it used to be back in the 1970s when there was no Wal-Mart.
Clarksville gets added to the list of “towns that Wal-Mart killed twice.” Once on the way in, and once on the way out. Hearne, Texas was one of the early communities that Wal-Mart killed twice, but the retailer has pulled up stakes in hundreds of towns as they closed out the discount stores in favor of larger, more profitable supercenters. The New York Times profiled the towns of Bixby, Pawhuska and Nowata, Okalahoma — three small towns that bet the ranch on Wal-Mart — but the retailer left them stranded when they shut down their three discount stores to open one larger supercenter in Bartlesville. One would think that Texans would understand the drill by now. After all, Texas has more Wal-Mart “dark stores” than any other state in the union. At current count, Wal-Mart has 24 dead stores for lease or sublease in Texas, not counting the latest empty store in Clarksville, which makes 25. But for the small business community on Main Street in Clarksville, Wal-Mart’s departure is best darn news in thirty years.