TOWN OF ULSTER–Paul Smith arrived for his usual Friday shift at 2 p.m. only to hear the news from another employee.
The part-time floor salesman in the mattress department at the Hudson Valley Mall Sears missed the big announcement on Thursday when employees were told the store would be closing in April and they would be losing their jobs.
“I was kind of expecting it after the holidays, but, still, it’s upsetting,” said Smith, who’s been on the job for more than a year. “I kind of liked it here and had settled in. It was very laid-back and not a high-pressure environment like some of the other places I’ve worked.”
Smith, who’s been in retail for 25 years, said he is unsure of his future as big-box retailers like Sears continue to struggle and close stores amid declining sales.
Still, the mattress salesman continued to hope for a miracle at the town of Ulster store.
“The manager said we were doing well over the last several months,” he said. “I know Sears has been on the death-watch list for some time. The company’s probably going to fold this year, so I was kind of expecting it, but, still, it’s disappointing.”
Attempts to reach the company for the number of local job losses were unsuccessful. Management at the Ulster Sears declined to comment on Friday and referred all inquiries to the corporate office.
Neither could Ulster Town Supervisor James Quigley shed any light.
“No one from Sears has filed a WARN notice with this office, so I can’t give any comment on the number of jobs that are impacted here,” he said on Friday afternoon.
The New York State Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act requires businesses to give early warning of closing and layoffs to all affected employees, employee representatives, the state Labor Department and local Worker Investment Board.
Smith said Sears employed between 30 and 40 employees.
During the Thursday announcement, eligible associates were told they would receive severance and have opportunity to apply for positions at other stores.
The Hudson Valley Mall store is among 39 Sears and 64 Kmarts nationwide that will close between early March and April. Stores from California to Massachusetts will be affected, though most are in the East Coast and Midwest.
The company also is shuttering stores in big cities like Houston, Philadelphia, Indianapolis and Las Vegas. See the full list here: http://searsholdings.com/docs/010418-store-closing-list.pdf
The latest round of closures means that the one-time retail giant, which began as a mail-order catalog company, now will operate fewer than 940 stores. Last year, the company closed about 400 Sears and Kmart stores.
For loyal customers like Mike Coletta, the news was crushing.
“I shopped here once every two weeks to a month,” said the Ulster Park resident. “It’s close to my house. They do have all the stuff I need for my lawn mowers. My wife seems to like the clothing. It’s a shame.”
Coletta was already looking for deals at the 110,862-square-foot store on Friday. He said he talked to many employees who were not surprised to learn their store made the list.
“I’m not shocked, but I’m surprised. I sort of knew it was coming,” he said. “I feel bad for not only the store and the employees, but the community.”
Nancy Meagher, a former mall employee, had a similar reaction as she combed through the post-holiday merchandise at the store, which had about 20 customers by mid-afternoon.
“I was just surprised…because it’s one of the only things left here. Now, we’ve got Target and Kohl’s, and I don’t really like to go to Albany and Poughkeepsie anymore, but we’re kind of forced to, right?
“I used to work in this mall. I managed the Hallmark store for years, and I don’t come up here hardly anymore, but I was amazed when I walked in today. There’s nothing here,” said the West Hurley resident.
Brett Munson of Woodstock was equally disheartened.
“I didn’t like hearing the news because I knew that I’d have to find another place to bring my automobile for servicing, and since I bought some appliances here over the years….I’ll now have to find another place to shop,” he said.
“I’m not about to go to Poughkeepsie or some of the other stores because they’re an hour away, and this one was very convenient for me to come and shop. It’s a little bit of a disappointment.”
Sears relocated from the Kingston Plaza to the Hudson Valley Mall in 1989–eight years after the mall opened in the town of Ulster. An expansion that year led to Sears’ relocation as well a food court and 15 additional stores.
The anchor store is the third to go under at the mall in recent years. In the spring of 2015, JC Penney closed. About a year later, Macy’s pulled out.
Hull Property Group, a real-estate company, which owns close to 30 malls in 13 states, bought the 765,700-square-foot mall last January for $8 million.
The company has said it plans to redevelop the long-struggling mall.