A 70-year history in North Platte for the venerable Sears chain ended Friday with the closing of the Sears Hometown store at East Francis and Cottonwood streets.
A sign on the store’s door in Francis Square referred customers to the brand’s website or the Sears Hometown store in Kearney’s Hilltop Mall for information on their recent and past purchases.
Once one of the nation’s premier mail-order giants, Sears has struggled for years to restructure itself while preserving its best-known hardware and appliance brands such as Craftsman, Kenmore and DieHard.
Sears was the last North Platte survivor of the trio of nationwide catalog and retail store chains that included Montgomery Ward & Co., which operated downtown from 1928 to 1985, and J.C. Penney Co., which opened in 1917 and left town exactly a century later.
A woman who answered the door Saturday morning at North Platte’s Sears Hometown site referred customers to the Kearney store (308-233-3058) and inquiries to Fishman Public Relations in Northbrook, Illinois.
“In some cases, for a variety of reasons, we opt to close certain stores,” the public relations firm said Saturday on behalf of Sears Hometown.
“We thank the customers of North Platte for their loyal support of the Sears Hometown and encourage them to visit searshometownstores.com/store-locator to find the nearest open store location,” the statement said.
A Telegraph reporter who visited the store as a customer several weeks ago was told then by a clerk that Sears Hometown had taken over the North Platte store directly and was looking for a new franchise owner.
That effort has failed, the woman answering the store’s door said Saturday morning.
North Platte’s Sears store moved in fall 2017 to Francis Square, the former site of Sun Mart and U-Save grocery stores, after 68 years in the Walker-Rhoads Building at East Fifth and Bailey streets.
Sears, Roebuck & Co. opened in that then-new building to much local fanfare on March 17, 1949. It boasted the largest one-story retail store in North Platte at that time, the Telegraph-Bulletin reported in a special section two days earlier.
After Sears Hometown relocated two years ago, workers remodeling its vacated space in the Walker-Rhoads Building uncovered a colorful Christmas mural, painted on brick, dating to the store’s earliest years.
Sears’ North Platte store had previously won a reprieve in 1993, when the parent company had announced plans to close it amid a nationwide restructuring.
Sears Holdings Inc. in 2012 spun off Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores, which then included more than 1,100 Hometown stores focused on small hardware and appliances and operated by independent owners.
Sears Holdings, which sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October 2018, was subsequently reorganized under the banner of Transform Holdco LLC.
The new Sears parent in June finished reacquiring Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores, which then included 491 Hometown stores and 126 Sears Outlet locations, the Furniture Today website reported June 3.
Liberty Tax Service’s parent company agreed in August to buy the outlet stores, according to a story on the Retail Dive website.