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Closing time: Rochester's Sears set to shutter store

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Rochester's 133,000-square-foot Sears store will close its doors for good in January.

The retail giant's closing has been anticipated as part of Sears selling it and 10 other stores for $270 million to General Growth Properties Inc., the owner of Apache Mall. However, the Rochester closing date hadn't been announced.

"The Sears store in Rochester will close to the public in January. Until then, the store will remain open for customers," said Howard Riefs, director of communications for Sears Holdings.

Sears will start its final liquidation sale in Rochester on Sunday. Its advertisements say that $5 million in inventory will be sold. The sale signals more than just the closing. It also means the 49 employees at the Rochester store will soon lose their jobs.

"They will have an opportunity to apply for positions at other Kmart and Sears stores. Eligible employees will receive severance," Riefs wrote in an emailed response to Post-Bulletin questions about the closure.

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While Sears is closing its big anchor store in Rochester , the company is looking for a possible Rochester location for one of its Sears Hometown stores. Unlike like the corporate Big Box stores, Sears Hometown stores are owned and operated by individuals instead of the company. Also in southeastern Minnesota, Sears has Hometown stores in Albert Lea, Austin, Red Wing, Winona and Medford.

They are a much smaller store with an 8,000- to 10,000-square-foot layout, focused primarily on tools, appliances, electronics and lawn care gear. That means specializing in brands that Sears is best known for, like Craftsman and Kenmore.

Just what retailer might fill the current Apache Mall space is unknown at this time, bu Apache Mall General Manager Kim Bradley is optimistic.

"It's a good location and we'll be fine, so stay tuned. We have nothing just yet to announce, but it's looking good," she said earlier this month.

However, the pool of potential tenants for such a large store is not as deep as it used to be with many department store chains struggling to find their niche today.

Dan Aguilar, who owns Smart Home Innovations on North Broadway, says he's alarmed about how attitudes toward traditional brick-and-mortar stores are changing.

He says many shoppers go to stores to identify what they want and then seek out lower prices online to make the actual purchase.

"I can see both sides of it. It's good that consumers can be more thoughtful in how they allocate their money," he said. "But I support a small staff here and keep my profits here in the community."

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He's seen many changes since he opened his home theater and home automation company almost three years ago.

"It's not static, of course. You always need to adjust to the market," Aguilar said. For his store, that means focusing more on service and offering to install products, even if they weren't purchased from him.

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Sears timeline

1863: Richard W. Sears is born in Stewartville.

1869: Sears and his family move to Spring Valley.

1892: Sears and Alvah Roebuck form A.C. Roebuck Inc. The following year it changes its name to Sears, Roebuck and Co. At first, sales are exclusively through the company's well-known catalog.

1925: Sears opens its first retail stores.

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1936: Sears, Roebuck and Co. opens a store at 2 S. Broadway in downtown Rochester.

1945: Sales exceed $1 billion.

1963: Sears moves to a 55,000-square-foot store in the new Crossroads Shopping Center in southwest Rochester.

1976: A historical marker is installed at the Sears family home in Stewartville.

1991: Sears moves to the two-story, 113,000-square-foot store added to Apache Mall.

2004: Kmart buys Sears, Roebuck & Co. for $11 billion in a deal that marries two of the nation's oldest retailers. The new company is known as Sears Holdings and is based at Sears headquarters outside Chicago. The companies have 3,500 stores combined.

Feb. 23: Sears Holdings announces it will sell 11 department stores, including the Rochester store, to shopping mall owner General Growth Properties.

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