One of mall’s oldest retailers closes doors

FLINT TWP. — After about 88 years in business, including 42 at the Genesee Valley Center mall, Bakers Shoe store is closing.

Bakers Footwear Group, In, based in St. Louis, Missouri, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October and tried to right the ship by liquidating 150 of its 213 stores nationwide.

But reorganization efforts to secure a buyer collapsed a few weeks ago and on Jan. 7 the company filed for Chapter 7 liquidation to close its remaining stores, according to records from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The GV store was not listed among the 150 liquidated by the end of 2012, according to SEC filings. But going out of business signs were posted in early January.

“The company no longer expects to be able to obtain any alternative financing and will be forced to liquidate,” said SEC records.

Bakers holds the distinction of being one of only a handful of stores that were among the original 56 tenants at Genesee Valley Center when it opened in 1970. Sears, Hudson’s (now Macy’s), Lane Bryant, Palace Coney Island and Pearle Vision (formerly NuVision Optical) are among the few remaining original tenants, according to historical sources.

Bakers demise marks the end of an era somewhat like the closing of Montgomery Ward department store in 2001.

Bakers likely was your grandmother’s shoe store. Not in a dated sense but because it has been in business long enough to serve four or five generations.

It target customers were fashion conscious young women between the ages of 16 and 35.

As of April 21, 2012, Bakers operated 225 stores, including 12 Wild Pair stores, according to SEC statements.

At its peak, circa 1988, the company operated about 600 stores nationwide including at least three in the Flint area.

The first store opened in Atlanta, Georgia in 1924, as part of the Edison Brothers chain and grew to become the nation’s largest women’s fashion footwear retailer. It was successfully downsized during a previous bankruptcy circa 1999.

Baker officials did not respond to a request for information on the number of affected employees or a closing date.

SEC filing indicate that stores will remain close by the end of February or sooner as inventory is sold off.

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