End of an era: Sears closing Genesee Valley store after nearly 50 years

FLINT TWP. — After years of closing stores due to declining profits, Illinois-based Sears Holdings Corp. has announced plans to shut down the Sears store at Genesee Valley Center (GV) mall, 3191 Linden Road.

In the announcement last week, Sears officials said they would closing 72 stores nationwide including four Sears stores in Michigan.

Sears opened at GV in May 1970 – 48 years ago, relocating to Genesee Valley from downtown Flint, according to historical resources.

Founded in 1886 by Richard Warren Sears and Alvah Curtis Roebuck, Sears is one of the oldest chain stores in America but has been in a downward non-profitable spiral for several years.

Sears Holdings shuttered its Kmart store on Miller Road in 2014 which also had operated at that location about 50 years. It has since sat vacant.

Now the wolf is at the door of the Sears store which is slated to shut down by September while the adjacent Auto Center store will close by the end of this month, according to a company spokesperson.

“As part of our ongoing efforts to streamline the Company’s operations and focus on our Best Stores, we have identified approximately 100 non-profitable stores, many of which will begin store closing sales in the near future,” Sears officials said in a press release.. “We continue to evaluate our network of stores, which are a critical component in our transformation, and will make further adjustments as needed and as warranted.”

On Thursday, May 31 the company informed associates at 15 Kmart stores and 48 Sears stores that these stores would be closed in early September 2018. Sears would not disclose how many employees are affected at the Linden Road store but did say that eligible associates will receive severance and have the opportunity to apply for open positions at area Kmart or Sears stores.

Customers can use the store locator function online to find the nearest Kmart and Sears stores to remain open.

Liquidation sales will begin as early as June 14 at the closing stores.

Genesee Valley Center officials, which also last month lost the Burlington anchor store, reacted to the news with an upbeat statement.

“It is disappointing to hear that Sears will be leaving Genesee Valley Center, they have been a tenant of ours since the mall first opened,” said Miles McFee, GV Senior General Manager.

McFee added that the mall has a unique arrangement with Sears, which actually owns its building and parking lot, so it would be premature to make any announcements about the replacing the store, he said.

“ We will work closely with them as the plans are finalized by Sears Holding as to the future of the building. We cannot comment as to what is next until the matter is resolved with their property,” McFee said.

He added that, despite losing two anchors, in recent years, Genesee Valley Center has demonstrated tremendous positive momentum with new stores that have opened, renovated and/ or expanded including H&M, Victoria’s Secret, PINK, Francesca’s, Kay Jewelers, Box Lunch, Torrid, Express, Wears Like New, Planet Fitness, Macy’s Backstage and Mo Pete’s Sports Retreat. Many other new stores will be coming soon including a greatly expanded and updated Forever 21 opening in Fall 2018, he said.

“The just announced closure of Sears will present an opportunity to provide more space for other exciting stores or opportunities to join Genesee Valley Center,” McFee said in a press statement.

Township officials weighed in with dismay at the Sears closing news.

“Sears has been a strong anchor for Genesee Valley Center for a very long time,” said Karyn Miller, Flint Township supervisor.

“Flint Township will have to double its economic development efforts through the DDA, assisting the Genesee Valley Center through this transition.”

Township Clerk Kathy Funk also expressed hope that “some other entity will be able to utilize the space. It goes to the old adage – ‘when one door closes, another opens.’ It’s time to look at viable alternatives.”

Funk shared personal memories of visiting the Sears store where her father worked to open the location and for some time afterward.

“It was always a treat to go and visit him and get candy at the candy counter that was located inside Sears,” she said. “Many years later when I was a new mom, Sears was the go-to store for good values on baby clothing for my son. That particular store has played a part in my family’s history and I will hold the memories close to my heart.”

Miller added her own personal memories.

“Sears has been around all of my life and in my memories growing up,’ she said. “As a kid, my brothers kept the Toughskins Jeans brand in business, even with their amazing warranty. I’m sure that holds true for many, many people.”

Kenmore, Craftsman and DieHard are other leading brands in the Sears stable that generations of families have relied on.

Sears was the first store to open at GV, according to historical records. The mall opened to the public on August 8, 1970 with 56 tenants including a Hudson’s department store, a Hamady Brothers supermarket, Cunningham Drug store, and Woolworth dime store, The JCPenney anchor store was added in 1979 and a Montgomery Ward’s department store circa 1993. Ward’s closed in 2001 and was razed to make room for the construction of the existing Outdoor Village wing on the south side of the mall.

Of the 56 original Genesee Valley mall stores, only three remain – Macy’s (originally Hudson’s), Lane Bryant and Palace Coney Island.

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