While they were meeting one last time outside the former Bon-Ton store at the Nittany Mall, a group of longtime employees was approached by a FedEx delivery driver who had dropped off many packages to the store through the years. It was one more person to say goodbye to.
It has been a difficult couple months for the team at the Bon-Ton, and Monday may have been the hardest day yet. After the store closed its doors for the last time Sunday, the staff had no more work do the next day, so the large group met one last time for lunch and a chance to share memories.
“It is really sad. We are like family,” said Carol Swank, who served as the human resources manager at the store for six years. She said it was her idea to get the group together for a lunch. “We all just loved working together, so this seems like the right thing to do today after the closing.”
Bon-Ton first announced it would be closing the State College store Jan. 31, along with more than 40 other locations across the country, including those in Selinsgrove, DuBois and Carlisle. On April 19, the company said it would be closing all of its remaining 256 stores after filing for bankruptcy Feb. 4. In total, the chain had stores in 23 states and about 23,000 part- and full-time employees.
After almost three months worth of clearing out inventory at the Nittany Mall location, which had been around since 1994, the store announced that April 29 would be its last day.
“So, now it’s over,” said Swank. “We have some people on the team who worked for Bon-Ton for 30 years. We all stayed because it was a nice place to work, and we liked working together.”
Now, they are left to look for new jobs or move on to retirement, said Swank. She said she was going to take some time before she decides her next move.
For a group of those employees in State College, the search for a new job comes now. But the group said they plan to get together as often as possible.
But the day after the closing they stood outside together
According to Swank, the last few days before they closed were difficult because there were a lot of long-term customers coming to say goodbye.
Swank said she can say nothing bad about Bon-Ton, and that they treated her and the rest of the employee well throughout the whole process.
“It really was a great place to work, but this is where retail is going. It is unfortunate, but we understand and all we can do is move on,” said Swank.
“I have nothing but good things to say about Bon-Ton. We were a family. I think that is why people liked to shop here. It will hit hard for this community.”