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Elder-Beerman to shut stores in 10-12 weeks, CEO says

Parent company Bon-Ton Stores going out of business

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    Elder-Beerman in Westgate Village Shopping Center

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    The Elder-Beerman in Westgate Village Shopping Center.

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The Elder-Beerman in Westgate Village Shopping Center.

The Blade
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The owner of discount retailer Elder-Beerman stores will go out of business, and it will close all of its stores within the next 10 to 12 weeks, the chief executive of Bon-Ton Stores Inc. announced Tuesday.

In a letter to employees obtained by the Dayton Daily News, Bon-Ton CEO William Tracy said, “We expect to soon begin an orderly wind-down of operations.”

“After operating our first store since 1854, I am saddened at the way the Bon-Ton story is coming to a close. … I am honored to have led and served our customers alongside of you all. … Thank you again for all of your outstanding work and dedication to Bon-Ton,” Mr. Tracy said.

Mr. Tracy told employees that he expected a liquidation bid to buy the company would be the best and highest offer at a court-supervised auction. A hearing will be held on Wednesday during which Bon-Ton officials will ask the bankruptcy court to approve the sale, he said.

RELATED: Timeline for Elder-Beerman in Toledo

In the Toledo area,an Elder-Beerman store is at 3301 Secor Rd. in the Westgate neighborhood and in the Woodland Mall in Bowling Green. Also to be affected will be Elder-Beerman stores in Findlay and Sandusky. Elder-Beerman stores in Defiance and Adrian were already slated to close this month from an earlier paring back. And Bon-Ton owns a Carson’s store in Monroe that also will be closed.

“It’s terrible,” Kelly C. Russell of Toledo said when told about the store closing. “I like the clothing brands they offer and I get perfume from here. And I like the prices. They have pretty good deals.”

Said Susan Hirsch of Sylvania Township, “I’m very concerned that we are losing a very good store that’s popular in Toledo and the area. I like the store very much. The store has merchandise you can count on, moderately priced. And the service is excellent.”

The women spoke to The Blade Tuesday night in the parking lot of the Elder-Beerman store in Toledo. About half a dozen cars were parked in the lot just east of the building.

Besides Elder-Beerman and Carson’s, Bon-Ton owns Younkers, Bergner’s, Boston Store, Herberger’s, and Bon-Ton stores nationwide. The parent company is based jointly in Milwaukee and in York, Pa., and has more than 200 stores.

The fate of Elder-Beerman stores seemed dim early Tuesday as only liquidators bid to take over the bankrupt owner’s assets in the first day of a two-day auction this week.

Bon-Ton had been working with U.S. mall owners Washington Prime Group Inc.and Namdar Realty Group to secure a bid that would have kept open a large portion of Bon-Ton locations. But the deal did not come together. Such a deal would have benefited the mall groups as Bon-Ton stores are major tenants for both companies.

Reuters reported Monday that the only two bidders were liquidators. The auction to sell the stores ended Tuesday.

Bon-Ton and its subsidiaries filed in early February voluntary petitions for a court-supervised financial restructuring under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware.

Most Elder-Beerman stores are located within local malls, so closures would have a detrimental effect on multiple shopping centers.

Elder-Beerman grew from a Dayton dry goods store started by Thomas Elder in the 1800s. In 1950, Arthur Beerman opened “Beermans for Bargains” junior department stores in the Dayton area. In 1962, Mr. Beerman merged his Beerman stores with the Elder & Johnston Co. Bon-Ton acquired Elder-Beerman for $92.8 million in 2003.

Blade staff writer Mike Sigov contributed to this report.

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