Salisbury Sears, where everyone shopped, is closing

In the wake of Sears announcing it will close scores of stores, including the familiar anchor in The Centre at Salisbury, longtime customers are feeling sadly nostalgic.

The company managed to survive during the Great Depression, World War I and World War II, but in March, doors will be locked for the last time.

“Craftsman,” said Mark Johnson with a quick nod, capturing his connection to Sears in a single word.

“My father always used Craftsman tools. I grew up with Craftsman. In his garage all the tools — the saw, the hammer, probably even the darned nails — all of that had the Craftsman name on them. We even used to buy him little Craftsman Christmas tree ornaments,” said Johnson, who grew up in Salisbury and was in town recently shopping at Sears.

“My father is well into his 80s now but if you mention Sears, he will perk up. He’ll perk right up and he will tell you if a Craftsman tool broke — even if it was 20 years old and all chipped and battered — if it broke, the company would replace it. That’s the unlimited lifetime warranty.

“That always impressed my father that a company stood behind its product. That meant a lot to him. It was like a man looking you in the eye and keeping his word. I hate to see this store close,” Johnson said, looked up at the sign.

“It’s tough to see an American retail institution go down. It always is,” said Mike Dunn, CEO of the Greater Salisbury Committee.

“Many of us can remember when Sears made such a big bang as an anchor at the old Salisbury Mall. Seeing this Sears close is not unexpected. But it still hurts,” Dunn said.

“The consumers have already voted” by shopping online and elsewhere, observed Memo Diriker, director of The Business Economic and Community Outreach Network, known as BEACON.

“But, it could not have happened at a better time for those who will be looking for a job because of the low unemployment rate nationwide,” he said.

As 2018 drew to a close, Sears officials announced they will shutter stores, including five in Maryland after the 125-year-old store filed bankruptcy in October.

Sears Holdings filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October.

The company informed associates at 80 stores that we will be closing these Sears and Kmart stores in late March 2019. Liquidation sales at these stores are expected to begin in two weeks … The accompanying Sears Auto Center at these Sears stores will also be closing.

Last year, K-Mart in Salisbury closed, eliminating a familiar shopping spot on Tilghman Road.

Wesley Cox, a realtor with SVN Miller Commercial Real Estate, said the Sears closing will open opportunities for other businesses to come to The Centre.

“This will give them an option in a heavily traveled mall. Some tenants like to be in malls with co-tenants. Businesses that go in will share the same parking lot with Dick’s and Regal Cinema there,” he said.

Dave Ryan, Director of Salisbury-Wicomico Economic Development, complimented The Centre officials for their success filling available space and said he is optimistic the Sears location will not remain vacant.

“It’s never easy losing anything but I have confidence because the mall did it before by filling the space after JC Penney closed with Burlington, Tuesday Morning and HomeGoods. In a tough retail market, the new mall stores are doing well.

“There will be some disruption, but we are still a regional hub. The face of retail is changing but we will adapt,” Ryan said.

Salisbury Mayor Jake Day called it “a shame to see old American companies like Sears failing but their competition (like HomeGoods, Burlington, Target, Amazon) continue to expand.

“And it’s important to keep the Sears closure in the context of Salisbury having the highest increase in commercial property values in 2019 in Maryland because of the historic low vacancy rate.

“And on top of that, we have the best performing indoor mall in their company’s portfolio.

Combined, Sears and Kmart employed 150 people in Wicomico County as of fall 2015, the state Department of Commerce said.

 

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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