The Sears store at the Vintage Faire Mall in Modesto and the Kmart in Ceres will close as part of Monday’s bankruptcy filing by their parent company.
They are among 142 unprofitable stores that Sears Holdings Corp. will shutter “near the end of the year,” on top of 46 announced earlier, the company said. Hundreds of stores will remain open as the chains try to survive in a changing retail world.
Sears in the Merced Mall also will close. Other Kmart and Sears stores in the Northern San Joaquin Valley and Tuolumne County will stay open.
Information on how the two large vacancies might be filled was not available Monday.
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Both of the locations that are closing date to the 1970s, when Sears and Kmart were dominant retailers.
“I don’t know how nostalgic I feel, but at the same point, it’s a shame,” said Sarah Alexander, a Yosemite-area resident shopping Monday at Vintage Faire. “I hate to see something (close) that’s been an American institution.”
Sears was one of the four anchor stores when the mall opened near Modesto’s northwest edge in 1977, along with J.C. Penney, Gottschalks and Weinstocks.
Just Penney will remain after Sears finishes its liquidation sale. They had been the last department stores in downtown Modesto, which for decades was a thriving retail district.
The Sears chain dates to 1886, when Richard Sears started selling watches in North Redwood, Minn. The Kmart discount stores evolved from the Kresge variety store chain, founded in Detroit in 1899 by Sebastian Spering Kresge. The Kmart on Hatch Road in Ceres came along in 1976.
The chains merged in 2005 but have recorded huge losses in recent years.
The closings are yet another turn of the “wheel of retail,” said Al Petrosky, chairman of the Department of Management, Operations and Marketing at California State University, Stanislaus. In the past, that meant department store chains outdoing independent stores. Now, it’s Amazon and other online giants on the rise.
“There’s always going to be a new format that comes along and pushes the others out of the way,” Petrosky said. “Sears pushed out a lot of specialty stores.”
He noted that Stanislaus County might be losing jobs in brick-and-mortar stores, but Amazon employs a large number of people at order-fulfillment centers in Patterson, Tracy and Stockton.
Sears celebrated its March 1, 1977, opening at Vintage Faire by giving away 1,000 pairs of panty hose. An ad in The Modesto Bee offered leisure suits for $14.88, film developing for $1.48, and CB radios for $99.99.
Kmart also was a major player in the years before Walmart came to California. A store near Prescott Road and Briggsmore Avenue in Modesto predated the one on Hatch but has since closed.
Kmart will continue to have stores in Oakdale and Stockton. Sears will still have a Modesto store, off Prescott Road, that sells appliances, furniture and other non-clothing items. Sears will continue this limited format also at stores in Manteca and East Sonora. The closest full-scale Sears stores that remain will be in Tracy and Stockton.
Aaron Edwards of Stockton, another Vintage Faire shopper, drove south Monday to pick up a lawnmower he had ordered online from Sears.
“I’ve been coming to Sears for over 40 years,” he said. “I’m big on the Craftsman tools ... My grandfather used to come to Sears. That’s what made me start coming here.”
Modesto Bee photographer Christopher Winterfeldt contributed to this report.