EAST WENATCHEE — No more Kenmore. No more Diehard. No more “softer side of Sears” for the retail giant that’s sold appliances, car batteries and clothes in the Wenatchee Valley for at least 80 years.
North Central Washington’s only full-sized Sears and its adjacent auto center at Wenatchee Valley Mall will close here in mid-August. A liquidation sale starts May 24.
The store’s parent company, Sears Holding Corp., announced the outlet’s closure Tuesday morning at an all-staff meeting. By 10 a.m., employees had texted news of the shutdown to friends and family.
“Of course, we hate to see Sears leave,” said mall Manager Dawn Collings. “The mall is like a neighborhood where we all know and support each other, and like any neighborhood we’re always sorry to say goodbye to someone. We hope, too, that we get new neighbors that fit into our community in the best possible ways.”
Mall management declined to comment further on a replacement for Sears. The mall is owned by Los Angeles-based Vintage Real Estate.
East Wenatchee Mayor Steve Lacy said the departure of a major retailer in the city is always a concern, but he expects minimal loss of revenue for the city from the Sears closure. “We’ve had other new businesses open in town in the last couple of years,” said the mayor, “which will help offset any revenue loss from Sears (closing).”
He noted Hobby Lobby, the 60,000-square-foot craft mega-store that opened March 1, and Town Ford, the 30,000-square-foot dealership that relocated from Wenatchee in 2011.
The store’s demise is an isolated closure and not part of any new announcement of shutdowns by the struggling retailer. In 2012, Sears Holding announced closure of up to 120 of its Sears and Kmart stores across the country, but skipped over the East Wenatchee outlet to shutter larger stores in Walla Walla and Lacey.
Recent Sears closures are “part of a series of actions we’re taking to reduce on-going expenses, adjust our asset base, and accelerate the transformation of our business model,” said company spokesman Howard Riefs, responding by email to questions on the closure. “These actions will better enable us to focus our investments on serving our customers and members through integrated retail — at the store, online and in the home.”
The store’s 59 employees will lose their jobs, said Riefs, but will be encouraged to apply for openings at other Sears and Kmart stores. The closest full-sized Sears is in Union Gap, 111 miles south of East Wenatchee.
In 1934, Sears opened in its downtown Wenatchee building at 18-20 S. Wenatchee Ave. and expanded in 1948 with the addition of a third floor. Most recently, that building is home to the storefront church Comunidad Cristiana Latina Rio de Vida.
Sears departed downtown Wenatchee in 1973 for new digs at the growing Wenatchee Valley Mall in East Wenatchee. Along with a huge increase in customer parking, the new 48,270-square-foot space allowed the local Sears to introduce an auto center into its mix of departments. The store’s one-story construction was hailed in The Wenatchee World as “a huge improvement” over the previous store’s three levels.
Sears is last of the mall’s original anchors to depart. Lamonts and Buttrey Food & Drug left in the early 2000s.
Nationwide, Sears merged with Kmart in 2004 to become what was then the nation’s third-largest retailer. The Wenatchee Kmart store closed in 2006 at its Olds Station location.
Since then, the nationwide chain of more than 2,100 full-line stores and 1,300 specialty stores has struggled to maintain its bottom line as middle-income shoppers switch loyalties to retailers such as Walmart and Target.
Mike Irwin: 665-1179