Sarah Olsen

After 103 years of business in La Grande, the JCPenney store on Adams Avenue closed its doors for the final time Monday evening.

The scene in the store Monday was a somber one. With the shelves bare and the showroom empty except for a couple racks of clothing, employees mingled with the few customers who had wandered in for a final browse of the store.

“It’s disconcerting, (the difference) between yesterday and today,” JCPenney employee Sheyenne Johnson said. “(Sunday) we had stuff behind the register and now it’s empty.”

The company announced in February that it would close more than 100 stores, including the downtown store in La Grande. Four other Oregon stores were slated for closure: in Astoria, Grants Pass, Pendleton and The Dalles. The La Grande store was originally expected to close June 18; however, an increase in sales kept its doors open a while longer.

JCPenney spokeswoman Daphne Avila could not be reached for comment by press time, but she did
describe the postponed closure to Fortune magazine.

“Since the company announced its store closure list, those stores have seen better-than-expected sales and traffic,” Avila said.

At the same time, she noted, the company saw the improvement as likely “a temporary surge.” Avila said it is not unusual to see a sales spike at a store set to be closed as many shoppers come for a last look or final chance to find an item on liquidation.

JCPenney, which was founded in 1902 in Wyoming and operates more than 1,000 stores in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, said the closures were due to industry challenges and larger than anticipated drops in sales for the holiday quarter.

“We have been proud members of the La Grande community since JCPenney first opened its doors on April 6, 1914,” Avila said in a previous story in The Observer. “It is always a difficult decision to close a store because of the impact it has on our dedicated associates and loyal customers.”

Johnson, who had worked at JCPenney for about a year, described the Monday closing as “bittersweet.” She said she was saddened to no longer be working with her colleagues.

“It was a family,” she said. “I’m going to miss everyone.”

Johnson was not alone in her feelings. Another JCPenney employee, Jerri Troutman, was also disappointed to be saying good-bye one final time.

“It was a good place to work,” Troutman said, who would have worked a year at JCPenney this November.

The empty store was not the only indicator of the store’s closing — a large Dumpster was positioned outside the store’s entrance. Troutman said items that were not sold or could not be recycled would be disposed of.

See complete story in Wednesday's Observer