JCPenney store at mall to close

The JCPenney store at Findlay Village Mall will be one of 138 Penney stores closing over the next few months as the company adapts to the rise of online retailers.

The Findlay store expects to close June 18, said Jonathan Davis, store manager. He declined further comment.

The Findlay store’s 45 employees are among 5,000 affected nationwide who will receive severance benefits, including aid in finding other job opportunities, writing resumes and preparing for job interviews, said company headquarters in Plano, Texas. A voluntary early retirement program also will be available to workers qualifying based on age and length of service.

The Findlay store’s closing undercuts the momentum of Findlay Village Mall’s hopes for a comeback. A Big R store, which sells farm and ranch supplies, will be moving this spring into the space vacated by Sears in 2014.

“We get one in — Big R is getting ready to open — and now we are losing another one,” said Vonn Bowers, mall manager. She declined further comment. Attempts were unsuccessful Friday to obtain information from mall owner, J.J. Gumberg Co. in Pittsburgh, about future efforts to fill the Penney space.

The Penney space is 62,000 square feet. Big R will occupy 98,361 square feet in the former Sears space. Another mall anchor, Elder-Beerman, occupies 72,356 square feet.

Walkers and shoppers in the mall Friday were empathetic and concerned about the mall’s future.

“I was just hoping that nothing else closes at the mall,” Jan Stoops of Findlay said upon hearing the news of the closing while walking with her husband. “That makes it bad for the mall.”

“That’s a shame,” said Sharon Thompson of Findlay. “That’s going to hurt the mall even worse.”

The news sparked more immediate, domestic concerns for Betsy Kreidler of Findlay.

“What’s my husband going to do for underwear?” she said, drawing laughter from the other two women walking with her. “Seriously, he buys all his underwear there.”

Those laughs aside, the news of the coming closing dismayed walkers and shoppers. The juggernaut of online retailing is upsetting lives.

“I just get a sick feeling in the stomach for the people (Penney employees),” said Jane Bowerman of Van Buren.

Penney’s workers provide a service appreciated by many customers.

“They have a lot of long-term employees that are very, very, very helpful,” Thompson said. “If they don’t have something in the store, they are willing to go online for you and place the order. You can pick it up in the store.”

“They are very helpful,” chimed in one of the women walking with Thompson. “Especially, like, if you need children’s clothes for grandchildren, that kind of thing. So then there’s no cost, and they do the online shopping for you.”

There’s nothing like a helpful clerk, and touching or trying on clothes to see how they fit or drape before buying them, the women said.

“It might look cute, but it doesn’t always feel the same way on you,” one of them said.

All of the walkers and shoppers expressed concern about the future of Findlay Village Mall.

“I don’t want to go shopping out of town if I can avoid it, so we need the mall,” one of the women said. “I go shopping out of town, too, but the bigger department stores are just” — she paused — “so many departments.”

“It’s overwhelming,” another woman chimed in.

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