FARGO – Herberger’s stores nationwide are closing, including the 100,000-plus-square-foot longtime anchor stores at West Acres mall and Moorhead Center Mall.
Both stores join Herberger’s locations closing in the Minnesota cities of Fergus Falls, Alexandria, Willmar, Bemidji, Duluth and the North Dakota cities of Bismarck, Dickinson and Minot, to name just a handful.
It’s not clear yet when the stores will actually close, but their merchandise will be liquidated, according to an April 18 bankruptcy court filing by parent company Bon-Ton Stores.
The news wasn’t a surprise to leaders of West Acres.
“The closure of Herberger’s has been on our radar for some time,” said Alissa Adams, mall senior vice president of marketing and business development.
In a news release on the Bon-Ton website, CEO Bill Tracy said the company was working to “ensure an orderly wind-down of operations that minimizes the impact of this development on our associates, customers, vendors and the communities we serve.”
Bon-Ton filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February.
Phone and email messages left with Bon-Ton headquarters seeking comment were not returned Wednesday.
The statement on the Bon-Ton website said that throughout the court-supervised sale of company assets, all of Bon-Ton’s brands, including Herberger’s, will remain open through store-closing sales.
Adams said Bon-Ton was hit hard during the 2007 recession and was never able to recover.
“This news (of closings) does not come as a surprise to us, and we've been preparing for it internally for some time,” said Adams, adding that West Acres’ location and the overall strength of the mall “makes our site easier to redevelop. We continue to see demand for space outpace supply.” Adams said the mall plans to work with a company called W.P. Carey, which owns the Herberger’s space, on the redevelopment.
“We're confident that the end result will be positive. That being said, these things don't happen overnight, and the process will take some time,” Adams said.
“Our customers' needs have changed and in turn so must we,” she added. “It is only to our benefit, as well as to our customers’ benefit, to replace stores that are no longer doing well and to adapt by providing new stores, restaurants and experiences that fit their needs.”
Adams said a prime example was the mall’s decision not to renew the Sears lease at West Acres, a space that will soon be filled by Best Buy.
“We are excited for Best Buy's grand opening in their new location in the coming weeks,” she said, adding that a major tenant is expected to take over the remainder of the Sears space and the mall “will be making an announcement on that project in the near future.”
The Fargo Herberger’s opened in West Acres in 1998, when the deLendrecie’s store became a Herberger’s.
Herberger's was founded in Minnesota in 1889, with its first store opening in Osakis, current population 1,717.
The store was bought by Bon-Ton Stores in 2006.
Strapped for cash, Bon-Ton sold the land and building for six of its stores, including the West Acres Herberger’s, to W.P. Carey, which has been leasing the space back to Herberger’s.
Herberger’s opened in the Moorhead Center Mall in October 1983, replacing Eckstein’s, and the store underwent several expansions, including a parking ramp completed in 1992.
Cristina Richardson, general manager of the Center Mall, said she had no definitive information regarding the future of the Moorhead Herberger’s, but said if it does leave, “that would be very unfortunate.”
Moorhead resident Norma Erickson said she sometimes shops at the Center Mall Herberger’s once a week, “sometimes once every couple weeks.”
She said if that Herberger’s closes, “You’re going to lose the Center Mall completely.”
But Bob Grantham, known to many as “Bob the Barber,” isn’t so sure.
Grantham, owner of His Styling Salon in the Center Mall, hopes another clothing store can be found to replace it. “Sometimes, when something changes, it’s bigger and better,” he said.
Moorhead Mayor Del Rae Williams said earlier Wednesday she had no official confirmation the Moorhead Herberger’s will close. But she said if it does close, “it will be something the whole community will mourn, not just Moorhead.”
She said the news comes at a time when the newly formed Downtown Moorhead Inc. has been working with private groups to come up with some new ideas for downtown. On the positive side, she said, the opening up of a large commercial space with tremendous parking could help some of those ideas come to life.
But Herberger’s would be missed, she said.
“I’m wearing a new spring jacket I bought there the other day,” Williams said.