About six decades ago, a young Sue Rosser and her sisters would eagerly await the arrival of the Sears catalog. The Christmas toy catalog was the most anticipated, a dog-eared window into the excitement that lay outside her small Montana town. Her mother before her loved the store, growing up with it roughly three decades earlier.
Rosser, now 68, recently walked out of the Sears in Centennial carrying a bag bearing the “Lands’ End” brand name, one of the assets that keeps her coming back, years after the store was the destination for her kids’ school clothes.
But soon, Rosser and shoppers like her will be forced to move on to other options when the Sears at 7001 S. University Blvd. in The Streets at SouthGlenn closes.
“It’s a staple of this shopping center,” said Rosser, who lives nearby in the Willow Creek neighborhood. “And it’s just sad — it’s one more brick-and-mortar gone.”
The store is one of 142 that will shutter near the end of the year nationwide, including 77 Sears and 65 Kmart stores, according to Sears Holdings, the parent company for both outlets. One other Sears in Colorado — in Lakewood at 10785 W. Colfax Ave. — also will close, according to a news release by Sears Holdings. That’s in addition to 46 stores already set to close by November, the company said. One Colorado store fell among that group, a location in Grand Junction.
That brings the total of full Sears stores in Colorado to seven, with only three — in Thornton, Aurora and south Jefferson County — in the Denver metro area, according to Sears’ website. More than a dozen offshoot stores, like home-appliance locations and Sears Hometown — which focuses on various household goods — still dot the metro area and the state, the website states.
“I’ll miss it,” said Debbie Lefevre, 69, coming out of the Sears on the afternoon of Oct. 17. “I think it means a lot because the older people shopped here.”
That afternoon, a few dozen shoppers walked the aisles at the Centennial store with smooth jazz playing in the background, punctuated by announcements to customers. On a monitor, a continuous infomercial for fitness machines played, overlapping the music.
The outlet, where rows of clothes, mattresses, workout equipment, outdoor tools and children’s toys all sat within a few steps of each other, stood as a relic of a sunsetting era in American consumerism.
Once the nation’s largest retailer — it started as a mail-order catalog in the 1880s — Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Oct. 15, the Associated Press reported. At its peak, the operator of Sears and Kmart had 4,000 stores in 2012 but will be left with a little more than 500 after this round of closures.
Over the decades, the growth of competition, such as Walmart and Home Depot, posed challenges for the former giant.
A Centennial Sears staff member said he had a memo not to comment on the store’s closing. Another employee said the same on the phone, and he was not able to say how many employees work at the store.
Lefevre would shop there for children’s sweatpants, appliances, shoes and “women’s clothing I can’t get anywhere else,” she said. “Just everything.”
She’s been a customer since 1999, before The Streets at SouthGlenn’s outdoor shopping center layout replaced the former Southglenn Mall in 2009.
“I’ll have to go to Macy’s, Kohl’s, somewhere else for appliances,” Lefevre said.
Over the years, “we have all” read about Sears closings across the country, said Robert Golden, president and CEO of the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce.
“So no, it isn’t surprising,” Golden said.
Sears, Roebuck and Co. sold the property at 7001 S. University Blvd. in August 2017 to NW Centennial LLC, a company listed with the same address as the Denver location of Northwood Investors LLC, Arapahoe County records show. The building was constructed in 1974, the records say. Southglenn Mall opened that year, and Sears was an anchor store.
Just a few miles northwest, the Kmart at South Broadway and West Belleview Avenue in Englewood went out of business in late 2017. A proposed project for the building hopes a mix of restaurant, self-storage and fitness-gym space can rise from the ashes, developers said in June.
“The model of retail sales has obviously seen significant changes, and convenience has been a priority to the consumer,” Golden said. “However, I believe that there are segments of the consumer market and areas of retail that are seeing strong 'in-person' shopping experiences.”
Golden pointed to high traffic in evenings and weekends at The Streets at SouthGlenn — where the South Metro Chamber is located — and was confident in the Sears property’s future.
“I anticipate great things will happen with the property. Alberta Development Partners are a very progressive and thoughtful group,” said Golden, referring to The Streets at SouthGlenn’s developer.
The City of Centennial has had "preliminary discussions" with the property owners amid continued changes in the industry that are driving big-box retailers to close, said Neil Marciniak, economic development manager for the city.
"Apartments or hotels could be a possibility at Streets at SouthGlenn," Marciniak said. "There’s an obvious demand for housing throughout the metro area, and hotel development has increased in the last few years, though it has primarily gravitated toward existing hospitality markets in downtown Denver and along major highways in metro Denver."
Northwood Investors did not return a call or email seeking comment on what future plans may be for the site. An Alberta staff member deferred to Northwood for questions about future projects at the site because of Northwood’s ownership.
Rosser, the Centennial resident, lamented the loss of sales-tax revenue with Sears’ downfall, saying it matters to the whole city because it funds city functions throughout Centennial.
Rosser and her family have come to the Southglenn Sears since moving to the area in 1986, she said.
“We had kids,” Rosser said, “and shopped here.”
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