WATERLOO — Younkers, a chain of department stores founded more than a century ago in Iowa will close all its locations after a bankruptcy judge signed off on the liquidation of its parent company.
Bon-Ton Stores Inc. will close more than 250 stores across 23 states, putting about 24,000 employees out of work.
That includes Younkers at Crossroads Center in Waterloo. It wasn’t immediately clear when the Crossroads store will close or how many people the store employs. Staff at the Crossroads location referred questions to company’s corporate spokesperson in Wisconsin.
The Cedar Falls Younkers at College Square announced in February it was closing.
“What are we going to do when Younkers is gone? They just keep losing more and more clothing stores, and we don’t get any new ones,” said Bonnie Siebel of Waterloo, who was shopping at the store Thursday afternoon with her sister, Sharon Davis of Cedar Falls.
Siebel said she started shopping at Younkers when JC Penney at Crossroads closed in 2015.
“There are certain brands that fit you better, and they just happened to carry some brands that I like,” Siebel said.
The Crossroads store started as a Herberger’s Department Store in 1989 and was converted to a Younkers in 1997 after its parent company — then Proffitt’s Inc. — acquired Herberger’s.
The Cedar Falls store opened in December 1968 with 60,899 square feet. It was the first department store to open in $7 million College Square mall, according to Courier archives. It shifted locations within the mall in 1986, taking the former Montgomery Ward spot and adding space and employees.
CEDAR FALLS -- A cornerstone department store in College Square Mall will be closing in the …
Bon-Ton Stores Inc., owner of Younkers, will shutter all of its stores by the end of August, according to an agreement it reached with liquidators this week in bankruptcy court.
U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Mary Walrath signed off on the agreement Wednesday.
“While we are disappointed by this outcome and tried very hard to identify bidders interested in operating the business as a going concern, we are committed to working constructively with the winning bidder to ensure an orderly wind-down of operations,” said President and CEO Bill Tracy.
The company will dispose of all its inventory and assets, it said on its website.
Bon-Ton is “committed to minimizing the impact of this development on our associates, customers, vendors and the communities we serve.”
Bon-Ton operates 17 stores across Iowa, including Younkers locations in Des Moines, Davenport, Dubuque, Marshalltown, Mason City and Waterloo and a Herberger’s in Ottumwa.
The company had run about 256 stores under nameplates including Younkers, Herberger’s, Bergner’s, Boston Store, Carson’s and Elder-Beerman.
It had about 23,000 employees in 23 states as of Feb. 2, according to bankruptcy filings.
Younkers was founded by three brothers as a general store in Keokuk in 1856. It was purchased by Equitable of Iowa in 1979 and then Proffitt’s in 1995, which made it a division of Saks Fifth Avenue. Bon-Ton acquired Younkers in 2006.
“I don’t think there are too many willing investors in brick and mortar stores now. They’ve seen what’s going on. I think people are nervous,” said Purush Papatla, marketing professor and interim associate dean of academic affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “Essentially liquidators have an open field.”
The businesses Bon-Ton has across the country sometimes serve as anchors at malls, and their departure could impact businesses nearby with less foot traffic, Papatla said.
Younkers is the second anchor store to close at Crossroads this year. Sears announced it was closing in January.