BENTON TOWNSHIP – It's been 94 years since Southwest Michigan hasn't had a JC Penney store.
It became reality again Friday when JC Penney in The Orchards Mall closed after 40 years and nearly 95 in Benton Harbor when counting the old downtown store. The closure also took away the last anchor shop in the mall.
Friday's official closing was a melancholy affair.
Dodging ubiquitous seagulls, pushing people in and out of the store looking for last minute deals. Some became empty-handed, while some lined up to the trucks for business purposes to lay up framing frames and shelves.
An employee in the store, Kristine of Benton Harbor (who chose not to share her last name) download some tables that had been used for displays.
"I've been here a long time. It's been a really good place to work," she said.
Kristine said the employees were offered the chance to transfer stores, although she chose not to take it. She said some of the employees have transferred.
"It's very sad. We're like a family in there," she said. "Everyone who comes in seems to be sad we are leaving."
Rose Thomas was one of the sad customers. She stopped at the mall on Friday with her daughter, as they saw the big sign on the building.
"I just wanted to go in and look," she said. "I was sorry. When I got to the door, I wanted to cry because JC Penney has been with us for a long time. It's really sad to see it go."
Thomas called Penney & # 39; s one of Benton Harbor's finest stores.
Her daughter said when she was a teenager they would order things from Penney's catalog.
"We love jewelry. Zales closed in the mall too. It was a beautiful store. What should we have? Look at the birds. This is terrible," she said. "It was a really good store. I wish they could have stayed."
Members of a family from Chicago visiting the area each summer were very surprised to see the store was closing. They said it is a place they come every year.
Peggy Lemire of St. Joseph said she picked something up in one of the other stores in the mall when she thought she would stop at JC Penney on Friday.
Lemire said JC Penney was her go-to big and she patronized it once a month or so.
"I was so excited about it," she said. "Before it came, there was no place to shop except South Bend, Holland or Kalamazoo."
Lemire said she was sad that it closed because she was so used to being there.
"I just hope they do something with the mall," she said. "It's just sitting here."
J. C. Penney opened in downtown Benton Harbor in 1
The mallet opened with Penney and Sears as main anchor shops. Sears closed in 2009.
The loss of Penney, announced in March, came a year after the mall lost Carson, originally Elder-Beerman who had served as an anchor business since 1992.
The local JC Penney is a of 27 stores in 13 states are closed this year. The company has closed more than 200 underwriting stores since 2014, as the country's brick and mortar retailers continue to face massive upheaval due to the fierce competition from online competition.