Business owners dismayed by closure

By Dick Mason, The La Grande Observer, @lgoMason

The forthcoming closure of the JCPenney department store on Adams Avenue in La Grande has downtown business owners sad and concerned.

“It will be terribly missed. It is the only store for everyday clothing in downtown La Grande,” said Sue Kreutz, a travel agent for Alegre Travel, 1307 Adams Ave.

She said that Alegre Travel, which is next door to JCPenney, draws many people who had been shopping at the department store.

“A lot of people with Penney’s bags come in,” she said.

JCPenney’s first opened in La Grande in 1914, according to the company. It initially operated at 108 Depot St. before moving to its present location at 1309 Adams Ave. in 1930, according to La Grande historian and author Bob Bull.

Keith Johnson, 67, owner of Anderson’s Shoe & Leather Goods, 1407 Adams Ave., said it hurts to lose a business as historically significant as JCPenney.

“It is a downtown icon. It is one of the few downtown businesses that have been here forever for me,” said Johnson, who grew up in La Grande.

He said that without JCPenney, fewer shoppers will be drawn to downtown.

“Small businesses come and go all the time, but when you lose a business that has been here so long and has such a big following and clientele, it hurts,” Johnson said.

He does not know how much foot traffic he will lose because of the closure since today’s shoppers rely on cars to get from one store to the next.

“Foot traffic has gone the way of the dodo bird,” said Johnson, whose shop is about 60 yards east of JCPenney.

Whit Hartz, owner of Mountain Works Bicycles, 1301 Adams Ave., with his wife, Mavis, believes his store will lose customers when the department store shuts its doors.

“It brings a lot of people in,” Whit Hartz said. “I hate to see it close.”

He said a portion of his customers are men whose wives are shopping at JCPenney.

“Their husbands are bored (so they come in to look around),” Hartz said.

John Appleton, owner of Alpine Archery and Fly, 117 Elm St., with his wife, Anieta, also said husbands come to his shop while their wives shop at JCPenney.

“Husbands buy bows while their wives buy clothes,” John Appleton said.

Anna Stever, the manager of BELLA, a mercantile shop at 1216 Adams Ave., said the closure will be a loss for the community.

“It will reduce clothing choices for consumers. I am sad to see it go,” Stever said.

Samantha LeBold, the owner of Alegre Travel, is struck by the round-the-clock popularity of the store.

“There are always people in there,” she said.

La Grande Main Street Downtown Executive Director Thomas Taylor said he is dismayed by the upcoming closure of JCPenney.

“We are just really saddened to lose one of our long-term tenants. It will really be missed,” Taylor said.

Steps will soon be taken, Taylor said, to address the loss of the popular store.

“The City of La Grande and the La Grande Main Street Downtown Association will be working diligently to fill the hole left in the core of our downtown,” Taylor said. “It is our hope that as one door shuts, another will open.”

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The La Grande Observer
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