The closing of Fred’s stores across Mississippi, including in Columbia, has affected many communities. The Jackson Clarion Ledger reported that the Fred’s shutdown in DeKalb means there will be no pharmacy in Kemper County.
Granted, Kemper County — located north of Meridian with a population of 9,600 — is a very small and relatively poor market. About 60 percent of its residents are black, and Wikipedia reports the median family income is about $30,000. It’s no stretch to predict that any pharmacy’s business there is greatly dependent on various government programs.
Fred’s departure from DeKalb means residents of Kemper County will have to travel up to 30 miles, to places like Meridian and Philadelphia, to pick up their prescriptions. That is sure to cause a hardship among many residents whose access to transportation may be limited. The good news is that three retailers in Kemper County reportedly are interested in opening a pharmacy, but that will take time.
There are elections coming up next week, and it would be nice for the problems facing small towns to get a little more attention. Many of them do indeed need jobs, but they also need basic services.
Though it will be a massive challenge to turn around the fortunes of many small towns, Mississippi has enough distressed ones that the time seems right for a little experimentation.