By Chip Cutter
Walmart Inc. plans to reopen the El Paso store where a gunman killed 22 people, but it will first entirely renovate the interior and add an on-site memorial.
The retailer says it will gut the store, adding new flooring, fixtures and merchandise, a process that is expected to take three or four months. The location could reopen in November or December ahead of the holidays.
Since a lone gunman opened fire in the store on Aug. 3, Walmart executives have visited El Paso and the company has talked with employees and community leaders about the future of the store, which employs about 400 people. Many employees expressed an interest in returning to work in the same location, Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said.
"Our associates have a very strong connection to their store," Mr. Hargrove said. "They have not wavered in their collective opinion that reopening the store -- and reopening it there -- is important to them."
The company is still finalizing the details of the renovation, and hasn't disclosed its cost.
Walmart plans to build a permanent memorial to remember the victims and to recognize the relationship between El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, just across the border. The suspect in the shooting told investigators that he targeted Mexicans. The memorial will be designed with input from employees and the community, Mr. Hargrove said, and will celebrate the city's strength.
The company says it communicated plans to El Paso Mayor Dee Margo and other city officials on Wednesday. Mr. Margo didn't immediately return a request for comment.
Walmart says it will continue providing counseling services to employees in El Paso. About 93% of the store employees have found work at other Walmart locations. Others have said they need more time to process the events before returning to their jobs.
In the aftermath of the shooting, Walmart has also faced new, stepped-up pressure from some employees and gun activists to stop selling firearms. Chief Executive Doug McMillon reiterated a previous statement last week that the company will "strive to use these experiences to identify additional actions we can take to strengthen our processes, improve our technology and create an even safer environment in our stores. We're also thinking through the broader issues related to gun violence and things we should do to help create safer communities."
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