SHERIDAN — On Friday, JCPenney announced it will close 138 stores across the country, including the one located in downtown Sheridan.
Local residents reacted with disappointment on social media and store manager Nancy Gorzalka said she and her staff have had a tough time processing the news.
“It’s very emotional,” Gorzalka said. “We were family; a lot of us have worked together for 10 to 12 years. You build relationships.”
Gorzalka has worked for JCPenney more than 20 years and at the Sheridan store for 19 years.
While the loss of employment will have an impact when the store closes, Gorzalka said the effects will go beyond jobs. She said JCPenney is one of the last places in Sheridan where you can shop for items for the whole family.
“There are certain places you just can’t get things,” she said, adding that the closing could send more people outside of Sheridan to shop.
“A lot of people order online anymore,” she continued, “which has hurt smaller businesses.”
Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce CEO Dixie Johnson echoed those sentiments.
“JC Penney has been here as long as I can remember and has remained an anchor for our vibrant downtown for over 100 years,” Johnson said. “It is one of only a few stores — three or four — still in its original location.
“I believe its loss will not only be felt by the dozen or so employees who will be out of work, but by several other Main Street businesses, as a sort of trickle-down effect,” she continued. “As an anchor on Main Street, JCPenney not only brought folks downtown but also helped to retain them downtown.”
JCPenney in Sheridan has been a Chamber of Commerce member for more than 40 years and has an even longer history in the community.
In January 1907, according to the Chamber, a department store named the Golden Rule opened on Main Street. Guy Johnson and his partner Henry C. Stevens opened the store in Sheridan, among 20 others they owned. In 1927, all of those stores were bought out by JCPenney Company and in 1928 the downtown department store became one of 131 JCPenneys across the country.
The store in Sheridan celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2008.
A press release from JCPenney said the decision to close the stores and one supply chain facility was made “as part of a continuing effort to advance sustainable growth and long-term profitability.” The statement from the corporation indicated that 5,000 positions across the country would be affected by the closures, which are set to take place in June.
Despite the closure, Johnson said, there are a lot of positive things happening in Sheridan’s business community.
“There is a lot of change going on right now in Sheridan, and although it’s difficult to see JCPenney — and other stores — leave, it’s encouraging to see new businesses opening and existing ones expanding and diversifying with the changing economy,” Johnson said. “That said, the Downtown Sheridan Association and its efforts to enhance and preserve our downtown receive kudos for the past work they’ve done for our downtown.”
She added that the Chamber, DSA and other partners will continue to support and assist the business community to retain and grow jobs and will do what they can to assist with the transition as JCPenney closes.
Gorzalka noted that just one of the current employees at the downtown store is pursuing a possible transfer to another jobs. The others, she said, have roots in Sheridan and don’t plan to leave.
“Everyone will come together and pull through,” she said, thanking the community for the expressions of support. “But it will be difficult.”