J.C. Penney

J.C. Penney announced Thursday that 40 stores, including the one at Signal Hill Mall in Statesville, will close in 2015.

Signal Hill Mall is down to its last anchor store.

J.C. Penney Co. announced Thursday that the Statesville department store is one of 39 locations that the company plans to shutter across 19 states in 2015. A liquidation sale will be held, and the store will shut its doors permanently on April 4.

The closure will make Belk the only remaining department store in Signal Hill Mall, which has spaces for four major tenants, and will leave about 40 J.C. Penney workers searching for new jobs.

The announcement will not immediately affect the hundreds of employees who work at the 600,000 square foot J.C. Penney distribution center on Salisbury Road, according to a spokesman.

The company may have decided in part to end its retail operations in Statesville because its lease was set to expire this year, said Burr Collier of C&J Associates, which developed the mall in 1973.

The news did not come as a complete surprise because J.C. Penney has been struggling to reinvent itself in recent years, and Collier said he was most concerned for the store’s employees.

“We’re sorry to see them go, and we hate it for their employees who have been a part of the Signal Hill Mall family for a long time,” he said.

“J.C. Penney has been an important part of Signal Hill Mall and a valued tenant.”

A total of 2,250 workers will be affected by the store closings, which will reduce the number of J.C. Penney stores in the United States by 4 percent to 1,020. In North Carolina, locations will also be shutdown in Asheboro, Elizabeth City and Wilson.

A company spokesman said the chain will work with employees to find new jobs at nearby J.C. Penney stores, and they will also be offering on-site career training classes to teach skills such as resume writing, filling out applications and interviewing for jobs.

One longtime worker in Statesville, who asked not to be identified, said the staff had received the bad news on Wednesday and they were still trying to get over the initial shock.

“There’s always been a Penney’s,” the employee said wistfully. “I guess we sort of expected it because there’s been rumors for years, but it’s just sad because Penney’s has been around forever.”

Vickie Dobson works in the cafeteria at East Iredell Middle School and said she has been shopping at J.C. Penney ever since she got her first job almost 40 years ago.

For a long time Statesville billed itself as the “City of Progress,” but Dobson said recently it has been turning into more of a ghost town.

“It’s pitiful. They want you to shop in Statesville, but there’s nowhere to shop,” she said.

Roxanne Blake and her mother drive up from Cornelius to shop at the J.C. Penney in Statesville because they don’t like the traffic and congestion around Charlotte, and they were very disappointed to learn that the store’s days had been numbered.

“As we were walking in we were just saying how much we like this store,” she said.

Combined with the recent closing of the J.R. Cigar outlet store, Blake said she could not think of another reason for her to come back to Statesville in the future.

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