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Local Sears’ final Black Friday: Deep regret

November 24, 2018

Assorted light bulbs were a buck. Wrench sockets, rumpled wreath bows and table saw blades hung out in red cardboard bins. Three undecorated artificial Christmas trees stood in the empty back of what had been the fitness equipment, outdoor furniture and Craftsman tool sales area, near a lone stainless steel refrigerator.

Meanwhile, fine jewelry and watches had been consolidated to two showcases and racks and racks of women’s summertime sleepwear were discounted at least 75 percent.

On Black Friday morning, what was left of the inventory at Sears’ Glenbrook Square store stirred up scant interest among some shoppers : and deep regret among others.

Briana Boyer, 19, and Kelsey Heller, 20, of  Kendallville, had cut though the store only to get to the half-empty parking lot in front of Sears. Heller carried a bag from Victoria’s Secret.

“I think my mom cares more than I do,” she said of the once-thriving department store’s closing. Posted signs said the store would shutter for good Sunday, with even the fixtures available for liquidation.

“My parents mainly (care) : they’re the ones who shopped here a lot,” Boyer added.

Sears announced in August the Glenbrook location, open since 1966, had been identified among the latest listed as unprofitable and would close by the end of this month. The store was among 46 Sears and Kmart locations in the latest round of closings slated by the economically strapped retailer.

The Glenbrook store’s auto center was set to close sooner, and has had its windows covered with brown butcher’s paper for about two weeks.

The 125-year-old retailer has had a Fort Wayne presence for decades. Sears opened the Glenbrook site as one of the original anchors of the mall.

In 1953, Sears moved from downtown to Rudisill Boulevard and Clinton Street. After Southtown Mall opened in 1969, Sears had a store there until 2002. That store closed after the demise of International Harvester and neglect of the mall property. 

In 1944, Sears, then Sears Roebuck, made news when fire broke out on its fifth floor at 113 E. Berry St. A fireman was injured when a beam fell on him, and later a damaged brick wall fell onto the Fort Wayne National Bank building across the alley, causing at least one fatality.

Sears is one of two anchors to shutter at Glenbrook : Carson’s also closed earlier this year. Two other nearby anchors, Toys R Us and Babies R Us have also closed.  

Sears still maintains limited-selection Hometown stores in Angola, Columbia City, Goshen, Kendallville, Plymouth and Warsaw. The nearest full-service Sears will now be in Mishawaka at the University Park Mall.

That store opened at 5 a.m. for Black Friday, but a report in the South Bend Tribune says the store, its merchandise having dwindled, was scheduled earlier this year for an auction that apparently did not take place.

Officials did not comment on the auction’s fate after it was postponed to May 21 and then pulled from an auction calendar, according to the Tribune.

Sears Holdings reported a net loss of $424 million during the first quarter of 2018 : something Faye McManama, 70, of South Whitley can’t get her head around.

Her family shopped at Sears “all our lives,” she said. They bought everything from appliances to clothing.

Friday, she was looking for “a little bit of everything,” she said. “Today, we’re looking for sweaters and shoes and boots. It’s the last days of Sears, and that’s too bad.”

Shirley Sarll and her husband, Jack Sarll, both 67, drove from New Haven to Glenbrook for some Black Friday purchases. But they weren’t planning on buying anything from Sears, even though the store had served them for years : with everything from a weed eater to clothing.

Jack Sarll said he even adapted to the new era in retailing by ordering items from Sears online and picking them up at the store. “I liked that,” he said.

Shirley Sarll said Glenbrook shopping wasn’t going to be the same with the end of Sears.

“It’s depressing,” she said. “Very depressing.”  

rsalter@jg.net

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