A fixture in downtown West Jefferson for over half a century will close its doors at the end of this month.
Sears Hometown Store at 203 E. First St. will close by June 1, according to the store’s assistant manager, Denise Bandy.
The store has been at the East First Street location since its initial opening as a Sears catalog store in the 1960s, and specializes in selling heavy duty home and garden appliances such as washers and dryers, dishwashers and lawn mowing equipment.
Bandy said the store has been engaged in a financial struggle for some time.
“We’re just not having enough business,” Bandy said.
Commercial retail in West Jefferson and Ashe County has come a long way since the 1960s when the Sears store was the “go-to” for many for their home improvement appliances. The Sears Hometown Store pales in scale to the local, “big-box” chain retailers like Lowe’s Home Improvement, Walmart and Tractor Supply Company.
Since 2010, Sears has closed over 300 stores and has spun off a lot of its assets into the likes of Orchard Supply Hardware, Lands’ End and Sears Hometown, in an effort to survive and remain relevant. There are approximately 778 full-line Sears stores and 900 Sears Hometown stores currently operating in the U.S. today
Sears Hometown stores are individually-owned and operated franchises but according to Bandy, corporate took control of the West Jefferson store in 2013 and made the ultimate decision to permanently close it.
“We’ve been corporate-owned for almost a year,” Bandy said. “Corporate has been looking for a buyer but hasn’t found one.”
In anticipation of the store’s closing by month’s end, Bandy said “everything in the store has been marked down.” Decisions on how to further liquidate the store’s remaining merchandise will be made on a “week to week” basis.
Bandy said there are three employees who currently work at the store, including Bandy.
Sears was founded as the Sears, Roebuck and Company by Richard Sears and Alvah Roebuck in 1893.
The Chicago-based company started as a mail-order retail business in the tradition of its primary and locally-based competitor, Montgomery Ward, before opening local department stores in the 1920s.
The company reached its peak in the 1950s and 60s and was the nation’s largest retailer until 1989, when it was surpassed by Walmart. Target, Best Buy and The Home Depot have since surpassed Sears, which was bought by K-Mart in 2005 and now operates both stores as Sears Holdings Company.
Alan Bulluck can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @albulluck.