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Sadness and Disappointment at JCPenney's Closing PDF Print E-mail
Written by Alex Garcia & Diana Martinez   
Thursday, 14 June 2012 03:21


Residents React to the News that Anchor Retailer Is Leaving Town

JCPenney's was doing a brisk business this week as their signs went up announcing that they were going out of business. They hired a guy to spin a sign at a nearby corner encouraging passing motorists to check out their sale.

Inside the store, shelves were emptying and clothes looked picked through with some merchandise fallen on the floor. While signs outside the store announced big savings, inside the store, shoppers found that the deals weren't as good as they expected.

"It's really not that cheap, and it's not such a great deal once you look at the tags," said one sylmar resident. "Most of this is only 20 percent off and there isn't all that much here to pick from, it looks like a lot of old stuff."

A lack of selection has been an observation that many have made of the JCPenney san Fernando store for some time. Local residents have questioned if JCPenney really understood their community, and speculated that if the store had done more it might have had a better return.

"This store never really seemed to have the same kind of merchandise as their other stores have, it always felt like it was the leftovers, like an outlet," said esther Lopez, as she moved through the racks of clothes. "But even though we noticed that, we still shopped here and tried to find something we could use, because we could walk to this store." While many JCPenney customers agreed they found the store in need of improvement, they were still upset that the store was closing and wanted to know why it was pulling up stakes in their community specifically.

The store first opened in san Fernando in 1927 and now is the only store in California that is closing.

"It doesn't make sense to us," said a spanish-speaking sylmar resident as she shopped with her family. "Why now? Why are they leaving now? They've been here for so many years. It's one of the first stores. We feel really bad, it's just no good."

"It kind of sucks," said ashley estrada, a younger shopper who reacted bluntly. "There is no other big department store near us. now we'll have to drive far away to shop, which just wastes more gas." "I live on Coronel street right around the corner," said another shopper, "This has always been my family's JCPenney store. I love the underwear because it doesn't rip."

Yvonne [who opted not to give her last name] said she lives in Tujunga and the san Fernando store has always been the place where she shops. "I've come here for 25 years and it's been convenient for me to come here. I'm really disappointed. There just isn't enough [retail] in this part of the valley." she like other shoppers said she liked the vintage charm of the san Fernando location. as people stood in line at customer service, the cashier could only groan when asked what she was going to do for a job once the store closed. One man, who saw the guy spinning the sign on the corner, said it was his first time at the san Fernando location. "For me, if I want to shop at a store like JCPenney and I can't find what I want, then I'll go check out the Macy's or another big department store, so it's better for me to go the mall where all the stores are at one location. so I guess I'm part of the problem that makes a store like this close here," he said.

The San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol called JCPenney for comment, but the retailer had not returned our calls by press time. City administrator al hernandez said that he had placed several calls to their headquarters in Plano, Texas, and was only able to get a brief explanation from them on Tuesday, June 12.

"They only said that the san Fernando store did not fit into the model of what JC Penney wants under their new management," al hernandez said.

But with a store that has been in the city for 85 years, residents and city officials said they'd like more of an explanation to understand why they are leaving.

Al Hernandez said he would continue to seek more information from the corporate headquarters.

Residents Urge San Fernando City Council to Search for a Solution

A special city council meeting was held on Monday, June 11, to discuss the announcement of the JCPenney's closing. Residents said they were disappointed to hear the news and wanted the council to take action to see if the retailer could reconsider their decision. After liquidating their merchandise, the store is expected to close its doors next month.

"My father put the first neon store sign up there after World War II," remembered George O'Connor, owner of O'Connor Electric, who followed in his father's footsteps and worked on the JCPenney sign a few years back when the sign and storefront was refurbished. At night the neon sign lights up and adds to the old town feel of the downtown mall.

With the store closing, O'Connor worried that much more than a store could be lost. "Now, there will be no place to get good prices and selection and we're losing our identity as a community," he said.

The owner of the building, Sev Aszkenazy, said much care and work was taken to renovate the store's facade to its original glory. "We had the original paint scraped and analyzed to match it's original look and to be in keeping with our city's pride in our history."

Resident Paty Lopez said she feels the city council should have been paying more attention to the needs of local businesses rather than spending so much time with their own inside bickering.

"We're sad. We're no longer going to have a quality store. We're going to have to start traveling. I don't know how many miles," Lopez said. "The reputation the city is getting is impacting businesses. Now, instead of coming to our city, the businesses are leaving."

"If this keeps going, we (San Fernando) are going to shrivel up and go in the dust. The city council has to make an attractive business community, lower taxes, safety, reduce crime, less parking enforcement," O'Connor added. "It's scary. We have a lot of vacant spaces in the city."

Councilwoman Sylvia Ballin agreed with residents' concern and said the store shares the city's history.

"JCPenney is part of the City of San Fernando's family and history. The decision by JCPenney to close 'our' store distresses the core of the city," said Ballin. "On behalf of our city I am publicly pleading with JCPenney to reconsider their decision. We want JCPenney to continue to be part of the San Fernando family; working together we can have a successful outcome for everyone."

City councilwoman Maribel De La Torre said at a previous meeting that she had been on JCPenney's website and was concerned that the Latino community was referenced as "emerging."

"We are already emerged," she said.

The city of San Fernando is a mix of both immigrant families and families who pride themselves in being among San Fernando's "first families" who have lived in San Fernando for generations, and like O'Connor remember when JCPenney first came to town.

In a document obtained by the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol dated in June of 2008, the store's management profiled the San Fernando location as being: 'Blue collar, Hispanic, loyal customers having huge sales volume per spare foot with the largest sellers being juniors and kids apparel.' The document also indicated that three generations shopped at the store on weekends. The document also indicated that the store acknowledged it was in need of a facelift and expansion, and it was their position that Sephora cosmetics would not work in this market based on the store's demographic research.'

The residents at San Fernando's council meeting would not agree with JCPenney's assessment of being sterotypically "Blue collar." In fact, many admitted they had not shopped at the store for some time because, they said, the merchandise appeared to be "seconds," and the store didn't have the merchandise they were looking for.

"I would love it if JCPenney would stay and have Sephora at this location," said Mayor Brenda Esqueda.

De La Torre suggested that JCPenney didn't really understand the buying power of the Northeast Valley. "I walked by a home nearby that had four SUV's parked in their driveway," she said.

"Preaching To The Choir"

Residents pointed out the store has literally gone through and survived earthquakes with them and hoped that they could believe in their community to stay.

"I know I'm preaching to the choir when I say losing JC Penney would be a blow to the revitalization of our downtown and our city," said Adriana Gomez as she addressed the city council. "JC Penney has been here for over 80 years and has gone through many transformations from within their company. But they've still managed to continue to do business here.

"They have operated on the motto of, 'Treat your customers the way you want to be treated.' And I'm hoping JC Penney will live by that in this instance.

"I just wanted to read something quickly for you guys from JC Penney's annual summary report so you guys can see they really do fit into our community, and I hope that we can work together to help them stay. This is from their new chairman:

'In praise of fresh air, this year we turn 110. We're fine with growing old; we're not fine with growing stale. So to celebrate we're going to throw open the windows and let in some fresh air. We're rethinking and reimagining, and if we find we picked up any bad habits over the decades, we're simply going to leave them far behind. We're simply going to treat people like we want to be treated ourselves – fair and square. We won't make anyone jump through hoops to get a good price. We won't fill mailboxes with junk. We will have great prices every day, and spectacular prices that last a whole month. And it won't stop there. We'll keep dreaming up new ways to make you love shopping again, matching our calendar to the rhythm of your life. Because we're not interested in being the biggest store or the flashiest store; we want to be your favorite store.'

"San Fernando is certainly not their biggest store, and it's not their flashiest by any means. But it's one of their most charming, and oldest stores. And I hope that it can stay and I hope you guys [the city council]can help it stay in the city," Gomez said.

Last Updated on Thursday, 14 June 2012 03:28