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J.C. Penney closure ‘catastrophic’ for mall

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz J.C. Penney in Alpena, seen here on Friday, was slated to reopen once the state lifted its coronavirus-related closures, but it has not. The store in Alpena joins stores in Petoskey and Cadillac to close in Michigan. The company filed for bankruptcy protection and is closing 154 stores in all.

ALPENA — The J.C. Penney in the Alpena Mall hasn’t reopened since coronavirus-related restrictions were lifted more than a week ago, and some other mall tenants wonder if it will ever open after the national retailer said the Alpena store is one of 154 to close this year after the company filed for bankruptcy protection.

The loss of one of the last anchor stores at the mall could be “catastrophic,” one economic development official said, and other business owners at the mall are worried about what comes next.

The J.C. Penney stores in Petoskey and Cadillac are also closing.

“Losing Penney’s has to be catastrophic to the mall, and I think a lot of people go to the mall for it,” Mike Mahler, economic development director at the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce, said. “I’m going to call J.C. Penney corporate and talk to the people I need to to see if there is any way we can salvage this. I want to let them know how devastating this is for the mall and the community.”

Mary Sobek, owner of House and Home inside the mall, said J.C. Penney’s closure is a large loss to the mall and the community. She doesn’t know what impact it will have on her store, which is only a few steps away, but she hopes another anchor business can be found to replace it.

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz House and Home owner Mary Sobek arranges pillows at her store at the Alpena Mall. She said the impending closure of neighboring store J.C. Penney could have a direct impact on her business because of the amount of foot traffic the anchor retailer generated.

“That is one of our major clothing stores, and it is worrisome,” Sobeck said. “J.C. Penney has brought in a lot of business, so, without them, you have to wonder what store will move in. Are we even going to get another store to fill that space?”

Jessica Krueger owns the Style Wherehouse, also near J.C. Penney at the mall. She said the popular store hasn’t been open since Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered most businesses closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. She wonders if the store will ever open again.

She said it is possible her store will be impacted, because there are a lot of people who shop at J.C. Penney and then drop into her shop.

“It is basically the mothership of the mall, and it will definitely affect all of us,” she said. “They haven’t been open, so I wonder if they are going to liquidate their inventory at other stores or here. Them being closed now really makes me wonder if they are even going to open at all.”

The retailer said it expects the stores to be closed in the next 10 to 16 weeks.

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Style Wherehouse owner Jessica Krueger prices a pair of shoes in her shop near J.C. Penney in the Alpena Mall. She said the large retailer didn’t open when the state allowed it after coronavirus-related closures, and she wonders if it will ever open again.

Ann Marie Brothers was at the mall today and said she learned about the store closing on social media. She said that, not only is the closure a blow to the mall, but also to those who shop for name-brand apparel.

“I have been shopping here for years, because there really isn’t anywhere else to go to get brands I want,” Brothers said. “Now, I’ll either have to order online or go out of town to get what I want. I’m surprised it is closing, because a lot of people shopped there.”

Randle Heath said he is sad to see another store close and to see people lose their jobs. If there is a silver lining to the situation, he said, it may be that the news will prompt more shoppers to shop at local small businesses.

“There are a lot of stores and shops that are losing out on business because of large retailers like this,” he said. “It’s unfortunate, but maybe our local mom and pop shops will benefit, to a certain degree.”

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz A small sign on the large store door says J.C. Penney will open on April 2. As of Friday, however, it still is not open and it is unknown when and if it will. Some speculate that the store’s inventory could be sold off at stores that aren't closing.

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