After 106 years in the same location, the Pendleton J.C. Penney will close this year.
The department store is one of 138 J.C. Penney locations on a list of closures released Friday. It is the oldest J.C. Penney branch in its original location in the United States. The closure will affect 20 associates in Pendleton.
Gary Vaughn of Jager Development, which owns the building, said that J.C. Penney has had a great run over more than a century in Pendleton and has been a “class act to work with.”
“We’re all very sad,” he said.
The store has played an important part in downtown Pendleton, Vaughn said, and was successful there. Jager Development is now in the market for a new tenant in the Main Street building that will similarly complement downtown.
Pendleton economic development director Steve Chrisman said he wasn’t surprised by the closure, adding that the store has long been at risk.
Chrisman said modern consumers value convenience, meaning online retailers and shopping centers like Melanie Square are better equipped to attract the high-volume customer base needed to support a large retail brand.
Downtown areas are more suited for specialized stores, Chrisman said, and he was confident the space would be filled again soon.
According to a news release from J.C. Penney Company, Inc., most of the stores being closed will begin liquidation of their inventory on April 17.
The closures affect approximately 5,000 employees across the country.
J.C. Penney Company, Inc. announced it “is in the process of identifying relocation opportunities within the Company for esteemed leaders.”
In 2015, J.C. Penney signed a 15-year lease extension on the building it occupies in downtown Pendleton and did some remodeling. In February, however, the corporation announced that it was compiling a closure list of stores that were not as suitable for accommodating the company’s “growth initiatives” in beauty products, home goods and special sizes. The final list mostly includes smaller rural markets, which in Oregon includes Pendleton, La Grande, The Dalles and Astoria.
Calls to the Pendleton store by the media are being directed to the company’s corporate public relations headquarters, which responded with an emailed statement that said the decision to impact associates and customers was difficult, but the closures were made “after careful analysis of store performance, local demographics, ability to deliver on the Company’s growth strategies and proficiency to execute a seamless omnichannel experience through online order fulfillment, same-day pick up, exchanges and returns.”
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