JOLIET – Carson’s will go out of business, marking the first closing of an anchor store at Louis Joliet Mall in its 40-year history.
The Bon-Ton Stores, parent company of Carson’s and other department stores, announced that the winning bidder for the company, which has been in bankruptcy since February, plans to liquidate and wind down operations.
The bid was approved in bankruptcy court on Wednesday.
News of the closing spread among Carson’s shoppers, many of them disturbed by the loss of a favorite store.
“It makes me sad,” said Carolyn Deal of Crest Hill as she headed into the Joliet store Wednesday afternoon. “It was just four hours ago they announced it, so I came over here. I just wanted to come here.”
Bill Tracy, president and chief executive officer of Bon-Ton, issued a statement indicating the company’s 250 stores would close and the company’s 160 years in business would come to an end.
“While we are disappointed by this outcome and tried very hard to identify bidders interested in operating the business as a going concern, we are committed to working constructively with the winning bidder to ensure an orderly wind-down of operations that minimizes the impact of this development on our associates, customers, vendors and the communities we serve,” Tracy said.
“We are incredibly grateful to all of our associates for their dedicated service to Bon-Ton and our millions of loyal customers who we have had the pleasure to serve as their hometown store for more than 160 years,” he said.
The retail business has become increasingly turbulent with growing online shopping and changing market trends.
The closing of Carson’s comes as Toys R Us, which is located outside the mall, is having a going-out-of-business sale after it was unable to find a buyer in bankruptcy court that would continue operating the company’s stores in the U.S.
Carson’s is one of the four original anchors that was at Louis Joliet Mall when it opened in 1978, although it originally was Bergner-Weise and became Carson’s after a retail merger.
The other three anchors – Sears, JCPenney and Macy’s – also opened with the mall. Macy’s originally was Marshall Field and Company. Macy’s acquired Marshall Field.
Eric Loula, manager at Louis Joliet Mall, said he has not been provided a timetable for the Carson’s closing.
“We’re not surprised,” Loula said. “We’re students of the industry.”
Loula said mall owner Starwood Capital Group, has been making preparations for possible vacancies in light of store closings and retail bankruptcies across the country. Carson’s already has shut stores elsewhere in Illinois.
Sears, Macy’s and JCPenney also have closed stores, although not in Joliet.
“We know that the retail sector is a constantly evolving business,” Loula said. “We look at former anchor space as opportunities for us.”
He said replacing Carson’s with another anchor store is one possibility, but Starwood also will look at splitting up the space for multiple uses and not necessarily retail.
“We’ve already successfully done this at several of our other properties around the country where we’ve taken advantage of this,” Loula said.
Mall space vacated by retailers has been converted even to residential and office space, as well as restaurants and entertainment venues, Loula said.
But Loula said Carson’s will be missed.
“It certainly has been a family favorite,” he said.
The winning bidder for Bon-Ton Stores is a joint venture that includes Great American Group and Tiger Capital Group.
The Bon-Ton Stores Inc. has 250 stores in 23 states. Store names include Bon-Ton, Bergner’s, Boston Store, Elder-Beerman, Herberger’s and Younkers.