JCPenney closing in Mount Airy

By Bill Colvard - bcolvard@MtAiryNews.com
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The Mount Airy location of JCPenney at Mayberry Mall is slated to close, possibly within a month.

And it’s not part of a long-running effort by JCPenney to shore up its financial health by closing low-performing stores. The company has closed more than 100 of its locations in recent years, and has shut down eight other stores this year, but those locations all closed by May 12, according to JCPenney spokesperson Joey Thomas.

Mount Airy’s location escaped those closures, but is now being shuttered because of the poor condition of the mall.

JCPenney’s corporate office confirmed Friday their Mount Airy location would be closing on or about July 9, and offered the following statement by email:

“JCPenney has a long history in the city of Mount Airy, first opening in 1929 and operating at Mayberry Mall since 1988. The current building, now 30 years old, requires proper maintenance for the safety and comfort of customers and associates. Consequently, JCPenney has made the painstaking decision to close this location. It’s never easy taking actions that directly impact our valued associates and customers, however, we feel this is a necessary business decision.“

Thomas said the Mount Airy location employees approximately 25 associates.

“We will go to great lengths to relocate esteemed leaders and, if possible, assist associates in identifying other job opportunities at nearby JCPenney stores. Eligible associates who do not remain with the company will receive separation benefits, including outplacement support and an on-site career training class. The class will assist associates in writing resumes, filling out applications, answering interview questions and more,” said Thomas.

Conditions at Mayberry Mall have plagued merchants and customers for some time. Surry County officials deemed the former KMart location in the mall “unsafe” and put it off limits to the public until repairs were done.

The county also has threatened to shut down the entire mall several times over concerns with leaking roofs and other structural issues.

Mayberry Mall Realty Management in Great Neck, New York, which has owned the mall during much of the time it was falling into disrepair, agreed to sell the KMart portion of the facility to Rural King last year.

In January South Carolina businessman T. Scott Smith expressed interest in purchasing the rest of the mall, except for Belk, which owns its store. Shortly afterward, Rural King went to court and blocked the purchase, stating it had the right of first refusal to purchase the rest of the mall from Mayberry Mall Realty Management.

In an email to Mount Airy city government officials, city attorney Hugh Campbell said, “There are a lot of parties involved and a high degree of complexity, but hopefully they are nearing resolution. The parties are due back in court in early July, so my sense is that they are trying to resolve all remaining issues this month before the court date.”

While the two had been negotiating a settlement, little work has been done to improve conditions at the mall other than what was being done in the former Kmart building.

Mike Kohan, of Mayberry Mall Realty Management, said, “I’m hoping they can change their mind,” in reference to JCPenney management.

Kohan did not make a clear statement as to whether he knew of the retailer’s plans to shutter the store, first saying he did not know, and then saying, “I learned that last night.”

Mount Airy city commissioner Jim Armbrister was not aware of JCPenney’s plans to close the Mount Airy store until Friday afternoon.

“It’s a sad day for everybody, citizens and employees alike.”

Armbrister said considerable progress has been made on the condition of the mall, but mostly on the KMart end.

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Company cites condition of building as reason

By Bill Colvard

bcolvard@MtAiryNews.com

Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.

Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.