Windstream announces plan to close Willmar, Minn., retail store
WILLMAR — Windstream, a local voice, broadband and digital TV provider for the Willmar area, is closing its retail store here effective Feb. 28, the company announced Friday.
The company said the store closing does not affect services the company provides to local residential and business customers.
The Little Rock, Ark., company said it is closing the store at 222 20th St. S.E. as part of a restructuring plan for its retail operations as an increasing number of customers use other methods to make payments, shop for products and speak with representatives.
“As consumers continue to migrate more of their research and shopping behavior to online platforms, Windstream will continue to adjust its approach to accommodate their preferences,” said David Redmond, Windstream senior vice president of consumer services.
“Windstream remains focused on meeting the needs of our customers in the communities we serve and offers a variety of options for customers to connect with us,’’ he said.
Redmond encourages customers to explore product offerings and payment options at www.windstream.com/support.
Customers also can reach a representative toll-free at 866-445-3402.
Windstream spokesman Scott Morris said the store closing affects the lone retail employee. Morris said the closing does not affect the service technician serving Willmar and others who maintain and install the services. Morris said customers can call the toll-free number if they need assistance.
Morris said customers can pay their bill by mail or they can arrange to pay online. Also, customers can pay with a free auto-pay service from a checking account, debit card or credit card each month.
To sign up for that feature, customers can go to windstream.com/autopay.
Windstream started business in Willmar 13 years ago as En-Tel Communications. The company brought voice, high-speed data and related services to Willmar in 2000 to compete with two other service providers.
En-Tel came to town as a result of several years of discussion by local leaders and business owners on how to improve telecommunications services in Willmar.
Among the five En-Tel shareholders that helped finance the installation of the fiber infrastructure was Allied Power, which was a joint venture of Willmar Municipal Utilities and Kandiyohi Power Cooperative.
“Prior to them coming to town, the existing telecommunications providers were basically not really too active in enhancing our system,’’ said Wesley Hompe, utilities general manager.
Within a week of the announcement of En-Tel coming to Willmar, Hompe recalls seeing one provider pulling more new infrastructure into the Willmar duct banks than he had ever seen. Another provider expanded its package.
“Anybody who didn’t even get an En-Tel service made out very well because En-Tel just happened to show up and caused a bit of competition,’’ Hompe said.
In 2008, En-Tel’s parent company, Bishop Communications Corporation of Annandale, was sold to Iowa Telecommunications Services of Newton, Iowa. One of Bishop’s subsidiaries, Lakedale Telephone, was the largest of En-Tel’s five Minnesota shareholders.
In November 2009, Iowa Telecommunications was sold to Windstream.
The announcement of the office closing was not a surprise to Willmar City Clerk-Treasurer Kevin Halliday.
“We knew that was coming,’’ Halliday said. He said it seemed like the staff and response time for service to the city’s local cable access system was being diminished.
“Taking things at an office is kind of old school,’’ he commented.