The long goodbye is nearly over.
Shoppers who've spent the past several weeks snapping up bargains at the JC Penney store at the Nittany Mall are running out of special deals.
Once one of four "anchor stores" at the mall, Penney's is nearly ready to pull up its anchor and sail off into the memory books.
The once popular store will close it's doors for good on Saturday.
Nittany Mall General Manager Polly Welch says Penney's has been a fixture there for decades. "The unfortunate truth is they are suffering," she says, noting that the Penney chain is closing several other stores in Pennsylvania.
A corporate spokesperson for JC Penney says the State College location, which opened on July 21, 1990, is a victim of financial reality as an "underperforming store." "While it's never an easy decision to close stores, especially due to the impact on our valued associates and customers, we feel this is a necessary business decision," says an email from Joey Thomas of JC Penney Media Relations and Corporate Affairs.
A walk through the store reveals a cavernous area. Racks of jewelry, clothing and household goods are gone. Stacks of empty display tables and piles of mannequins now fill much of the floor space.
Near the front door, there are some women's dresses, bras, jeans, men's slacks, Tee-shirts and a surprising number of window drapes still available at fire sale prices. Small red signs proclaiming everything is "75% Off" are everywhere. Another sign brings home the message, "All sales are final. No Returns."
Jerry Waite, a construction worker at Penn State, is sorry to see the store closing down.
"No, I don't like to see them go," he says. "My parents always shopped there and my wife shopped there with her mother awhile back. They seemed to enjoy going there."
Waite says his family members always got good deals on quality merchandise.
Welch expresses sadness about the move, saying it's unfortunate that Penney's is moving out. "You never like to see anybody leave, especially a tenant that has been here that long."
According to Welch mall customers are telling her they're also sad to see Penney's go.
Sadly, dozens of employees will be going as well. According to JC Penney, "approximately 55 associates are impacted at our State College location."
Those who are being laid off will receive separation benefits as well as an on-site career training class. "The class will assist associates in writing resumes, filling out applications, answering interview questions and more," says Thomas.
Welch says some Penney employees have already moved on to other retail positions with other stores at the mall, and additional jobs are still available.
On Wednesday, one of those employees was overhead telling another, "Good luck, if I don't see you again." Not very far away, a few shoppers quietly rummaged through the bargains.
JC Penney's loss will be someone else's gain. A new mystery retailer could be taking over very soon.
"We have two companies that have submitted letters of interest," says Welch. "That means they are actively pursuing that space. ... They've come in and measured the space. They are very interested."
Welch can't say which company will move in until after a lease is signed. That could happen within a matter of a few weeks to a few months.
Asked if the prospective retailers are familiar names, Welch simply says, "Yes."
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