Sears announces closure of historic Seattle store

The Seattle TimesFebruary 22, 2014 

Sears is laying off 79 employees as it closes its store in the massive, historic SoDo building that was erected more than a century ago to attract the retailer to Seattle.

Some 66 employees work at the store and 13 at the neighboring Sears auto center, a company spokesman said Friday.

Both will close to the public in early June, and a liquidation sale at the store will start April 3, the spokesman said.

The move underscores the woes faced by the Illinois-based company, which battles shrinking sales and mounting losses amid stiff competition from online retailers and brick-and-mortar giants such as Target and Costco Wholesale.

Store closures, the spokesman said, are part of what Sears is doing to cut expenses and overhaul its business model.

It’s also a milestone for the structure, which owner Nitze-Stagen says was built in 1912 by Union Pacific Railroad out of heavy timbers from Yesler Mill to lure then-booming Sears to Seattle. Sears used the site as a warehouse for its catalog operation and in 1925 opened the retail store, which is the oldest continuously operated Sears store in the world, according to the Nitze-Stagen website.

A Sears spokesman, however, said that the current store opened in January 1951. He had no information about its earlier history.

Now the building is known as Starbucks Center; the coffee giant chose the building in 1997 as its headquarters. The 2.1 million-square-foot structure also houses other tenants.

Sears said that employees who are eligible will receive severance and will be able to apply for open jobs in the area at Sears or at Kmart, which is also owned by Sears Holdings. Most of them are part-time, hourly employees, the spokesman said.

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