Business

Sears at Modesto’s Vintage Faire Mall and Kmart in Ceres close their doors

After almost 80 years of continuous business in Modesto, Sears has shut its doors for good.

The Sears store at Vintage Faire Mall closed last weekend, shortly after the New Year’s holiday. Signs are posted at its doors reading: “This Sears location is permanently closed” and directing customers to nearby stores still operating in Stockton and Tracy.

Last year Sears Holdings Corp. — which owns Sears and Kmart stores — announced it would shutter more than 260 stores nationwide between the two chains as part of its ongoing Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. The Kmart on Hatch Road in Ceres, which opened in 1976, closed over the weekend. The Sears in the Merced Mall has also shut down.

The Sears Outlet store on Prescott Road in Modesto remains open, as does a Kmart store in Oakdale.

Sears, which was founded in 1886, was a staple of American home life for generations, selling everything from washing machines to women’s corsets. Its famed catalog allowed rural customers to buy mass-produced goods that previously had only been available in big cities.

In Modesto, Sears had a long history that spanned two locations. In 1940, it opened a department store downtown at 10th and K streets, across from what was then the Strand Theatre (and now the Brenden Theatres). Advertisements in The Modesto Bee at the time heralded the excitement of the new Sears, Roebuck and Co. store opening.

One grand opening ad read: “Behind this momentous event, there is a story of interest to everyone residing in Modesto ... in this community ... in California!”

It remained downtown for nearly four decades before moving to the Vintage Faire Mall in 1977. Sears was one of the northwest Modesto mall’s original tenants, among its fours anchors along with J.C. Penney, Gottschalks and Weinstock’s. Now only the J.C. Penney remains open at the mall.

Before filing for bankruptcy last October, Sears had some 687 stores and about 68,000 employees. Kmart, which survived its own bankruptcy, merged with Sears in 2005.

Sears chairman Eddie Lampert is attempting to save the once venerable brand from total extinction with last-minute bids to buy the company. Earlier this week a $4.4 billion proposal was rejected. He has vowed to file another, higher proposal. If it is also not accepted, the company is expected to go into liquidation and shutter all of its remaining stores.

Local customers are being directed to the Sears stores on Pacific Avenue in Stockton and Naglee Road in Tracy or to visit www.sears.com.

Marijke Rowland writes about new business, restaurant and retail developments. She has been with The Modesto Bee since 1997 covering a variety of topics including arts and entertainment. Her Business Beat column runs multiple times a week. And it’s pronounced Mar-eye-ke.
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