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Residents Hold Emergency Rally to Keep JCP In San Fernando PDF Print E-mail
Written by Diana Martinez   
Thursday, 05 July 2012 05:38


Valley residents and supporters of the JCPenney store in the San Fernando mall were busy Sunday, signing petitions to keep the store open during a day-long rally in San Fernando.

An eclectic mix of people of all ages and from all walks of life came together at Sunday's rally with one thing in common.

They all wanted the JCP store location in the San Fernando's mall to stay. Spanishspeaking families shopping inside the store walked over to join the rally, car clubs drove into the store's parking lot, people traveled from Palmdale, Newhall, Canoga Park, North Hollywood and all points in-between, including Van Nuys and Granada Hills.

One woman pedaled her adult-sized tricycle from Sylmar.

As they stood in line to sign the petition to keep the retailer in town, they shared their stories. It seemed everyone had an attachment to this store.

"I just couldn't believe it when I heard the store was closing," said Lucinda Gallegos. "I grew up shopping here, I used to buy my gym clothes here."

Arleta resident Raymond Duran asked, "Why are they doing this? I remember when People's Department store was here. The JCPenney has been here for so many years, it doesn't make sense."

"It's an icon for us," said Patricia Castro, "its part of our history, just look at it. It doesn't look like the other JCPenney stores it's a piece of history." Said Mission Hills resident Lisa Granados, "I'm 51 years old, I want them to keep this here. This is a landmark for us," San Fernando City officials agree and last week moved to designate the building as historic.

Chatsworth resident Veronica Rosales, with her husband Mario and their son Alexander in tow, said the store had special meaning for her. Her very first job was at this store. "I worked here at this JCPenney when I was in high school. My mom shopped here, we all did."

Rosales said she preferred the San Fernando store, compared to stores in Northridge or Valencia, because of its history. "This is really sad to see. It needs to stay here."

Hope Barrios said that JCPenney has always been a loyal tradition in her family.

"My mom is now in her 80s and it was the first store that she ever shopped in and it's the only store she'll shop in to this day," Barrios said. "My father always had to have Towncraft T-shirts, he couldn't wear anything else."

San Fernando resident Cynthia Surage said she grew up in the city and moved away a few times, but came back because she likes it.

"It's a great little town and when people come to visit, they are surprised and say they never knew about this community," she said. "My family roots go back to the 1920s in San Fernando beginning with my great-grandfather."

Surage works at Nickelodeon in Burbank, on the artwork for the animated character "Dora the Explorer." "This saddens me and makes me angry," she said. "Dora wouldn't like this very much either."

Lupe Villareal didn't like the news either.

"I got my first credit card from JCPenney. If JCPenney closes and feels that way about our store, then I won't feel the same way about them," she said emphatically. "It's part of my community.

It will definitely sour me on them. I'm just not going to feel the same."

Villareal said she did notice that the store's merchandise had declined over recent years. They still had basic underwear and other items that were good, but they needed more and they needed to improve the store. She said she "wondered if the store did it on purpose."

It was fitting that former members of the R&B group War played the crowd's favorites, including the song, "Why Can't We Be Friends?"

The message wasn't lost on the crowd. Local politicians spoke about the need for JCP to come to the table and listen to its customers.

"We've been loyal to JCPenney for more than 80 years, and JCPenney should extend some of that loyalty to us," Mayor Brenda Esqueda said.

"JCPenney needs to understand who their customers are," added Councilwoman Sylvia Ballin.

"The Hispanic community is the largest growing community in the country with the largest young demographic between the ages of 18-29," she said. "We are exactly what this retailer wants. We want to help them be successful, and they can be by understanding this community and what we need and want. We want and need quality goods and service."

The vintage low riders and classic cars were put on display in the store's parking lot and represented the various years that the store has been in the city. It was pointed out by the rally organizers that the car owners and car clubs are also part of the city's local culture and part of the history of San Fernando's historic mall, where people enjoyed weekend cruising.

"We're all grandfathers now," one car owner said, describing himself. "We have families and kids and now grandkids, and all of our families have shopped at that store."

"If you can afford restoring and having a classic car, then you have the money to certainly shop there," resident Julian Ruelas pointed out. Ruelas had his own beauty of a car that he drove into the rally.

Actor Danny Trejo dropped in and as people stopped him and asked to take his photo with them, he in turn asked the kids how they were doing in school.

"We need smart people," he told them. Trejo, who grew up in neighboring Pacoima, said it was "important" that stores like JCPenney be in the community.

Residents said they understood that taking their dollars out of their community doesn't benefit San Fernando. They pointed out that families depend on this store, and many people cannot and will not travel to another JCP location if the retailer leaves. They feel it is disrespectful to customers that helped to build their brand. The San Fernando location is the only store in California that is being closed.

"If the store leaves, we're all canceling our JCPenney credit cards," Jose De La Paz said. "I've been shopping here since 1968 and my parents have always come here. If they go, I'll never go to another JCPenney's again."

"We're all here to support the neighborhood," said David Garcia, who proudly sported his USC jersey as an alum. "It's discriminatory; they don't call it an 'outlet,' but they've been treating it like one. Now they are trying to take it away. It ain't right." His wife Sandra echoed the sentiments of her husband and so many others at the rally.

"Why go to Northridge, when this store is here. It's about family. It's part of the community.

This store has been like 'home' for years.

Last Updated on Thursday, 05 July 2012 05:42