JOLIET – Cheryl Sheridan of Joliet likes to see and touch things before she buys them, but her options seem to be running out. She was headed into Carson’s at Louis Joliet Mall last week on the day news broke that company was going out of business.
“I don’t like that we’re running out of places where we can try on clothes and touch and handle things as opposed to buying them online,” she said.
Sheridan wasn’t the only shopper who took Carson’s bad news personally.
“I love Carson’s,” said Carolyn Deal of Crest Hill. “I’m upset. I think it’s because of Amazon. Amazon is hurting everybody.”
Deal like Sheridan likes the traditional shopping experience. She sees the rise of Amazon and online retailing as a threat not just to stores like Carson’s, but also to the shopping experience.
“It’s retail therapy for me,” Deal said. “Sometimes I just go to browse.”
Having come to the store for years, Deal has gotten to know some of the people who work there.
“I know one of the girls who works in the shoe department. She’s been here 10 years,” Deal said. “It’s sad for all those employees.”
Carson’s is part of The Bon-Ton Stores, a network of 250 department stores that also includes Younkers, Boston Store and other names with long histories in the regions where they do business.
Carson’s, once named Carson, Pirie, Scott and Co., started in Illinois in 1854. Its first stores were in Peru, LaSalle and Amboy. The former Carson, Pirie, Scott and Co. Building in Chicago was built in 1899 and designed by famed architect Louis Sullivan, considered the creator of the skyscraper.
Even the Joliet store, which originally opened as a Bergner-Weise and became Carson’s after a retail merger, had its own character with a glass elevator that offered shoppers a unique overhead view of the store while going from one floor to the other.
The Chicago store on State Street closed in 2007, a sign of what was to come. Bon-Ton Stores has been in bankruptcy since February. It appeared on lists predicting retailers that would shut down this year.
“We knew it was coming,” said Steve Jones, economic development director for the city of Joliet.
“I see that folks that were shopping at Carson’s will go somewhere else in the mall,” Jones said. “They’ll go to Macy’s or Sears to get the things they would get at Carson’s.”
Those stores also are fighting for survival in the new world of retail.
“It’s really sad that it (Carson’s) is closing,” said one woman who did not want to share her name as she talked briefly before going into the store. “But a lot of people do online shopping now. It’s hurting all the stores.”