The Sears in the Middlesboro Mall will be closing, and two other retailers in the mall have announced that they’ll close their doors in upcoming months as well. This comes in the wake of two restaurants (Captain D’s and J. Milton’s) announcing closure in the past two months.
Sears, Home Decor, and Diamond C Unlimited will be closing. The Sears located in the Middlesboro Mall was one of the 79 stores posted on a recent closure list by Sears. Sears announced earlier in the week that they are planning on closing up to 120 Sears and Kmart stores nationwide.
Sears is chopping stores because of low sales during the holiday season. Their sales slid 27 percent nationwide, bringing it to the lowest level in three years.
According to a press release, the closures are expected to generate $140 to $170 million as the selected stores are closed.
“Given our performance and the difficult economic environment, especially for big-ticket items, we intend to implement a series of actions to reduce on-going expenses, adjust our asset base, and accelerate the transformation of our business model,” said CEO Lou D’Ambrosio through a press release.
No closing date has been posted for the Middlesboro Sears store. Sears corporate spokespersons could not be reached.
Diamond C. Unlimited has plans on closing sooner rather than later. Liquidators were supposed to arrive on Friday. Pending the result, it could be their last day of business.
Sandra Coward, owner of Diamond C. Unlimited, stated that the keys would be handed in to the mall office by February 28 if things don’t go as planned with the liquidators.
Diamond C. is closing mainly because of lack of traffic, sales, and personal reasons.
“I’m just tired of working the long hours,” said Coward. “We are looking forward to moving on.”
During the holiday season, Coward said that sales were average, but the traffic was lackluster.
Coward stated that they are not looking to re-open anywhere in the mall. “If we re-open it will be somewhere between the tunnel and Tazewell,” said Coward.
The company was five months shy of spending 20 years in the mall, according to Coward.
No one from Home Decor could be reached, but associates from the mall office confirmed that Home Decor’s last day open was planned to be Friday.
Middlesboro's J. Milton's closes
MIDDLESBORO — For the second time in just two months, a Middlesboro restaurant has closed. Locally owned J. Milton’s Steak and Buffet closed its doors for good. Owner Sam Mars III stated last week that the closing would be effective Monday, January 2.
Steve Mars, manger of J. Milton’s, addressed over 40 employees last Tuesday morning to announce the decision to close. The closing affected a total of 60 employees.
The owners cited the reason for the closing as the poor economy. Management stated that it has been a financial strain to remain in operation for some time but the past 12 months have been devastating.
“With the decline in the coal industry and the dramatic increase in the cost of gasoline coupled with the toughest economic climate witnessed in decades, all of the local businesses have suffered, especially those who depend solely on discretionary dollars,” said Mars. “People simply do not eat out if they can’t afford it and when they do, they only eat where and what they can afford, resulting in the higher priced restaurants suffering the most.”
Mars said that management tried a limited remodel that had no effect.
“They (people) can’t afford to eat, and when they do, they’re going to eat an Arby’s roast beef sandwich for $1.89 rather than a $5 burger at J. Milton’s.”
Mars stated that the bottom line is that the customer base in the Tri-State area has not grown over the years, but the number of eating establishments has significantly increased in the past 10 years.
This results in the customer base being divided into smaller shares amongst the different restaurants, according to Mars. Plus, there will be an addition to the restaurant count around June 2012 when Cracker Barrel is estimated to be completed.
“The customer base is simply not here to support all the establishments adequately and J. Milton’s would be the first to feel the impact of the new establishment (Cracker Barrel); therefore leaving management with only one option, which is to close,” said Mars.
The reason why it was decided to close the restaurant this month was primarily because January and February are typically J. Milton’s worst months for business.
“People have spent all of their money Christmas shopping and they are not traveling,” said Mars about the decision to close in January.
What the future holds for the property is still in question. The owners have had several inquiries but nothing is currently planned.
The restaurant served the community for over 20 years. The store was originally owned by the Ausmus family under the “Prime Sirloin” franchise banner. The name was eventually changed to J. Milton’s, named after Judy Ausmus’ father.
After running into financial trouble, the Ausmus family sold the property the Mars family who ultimately decided to maintain the J. Milton’s name. The Mars family ran the restaurant for 12 years.
“The management sincerely appreciates the dedication of the employees and the patronage of all the loyal customers who have supported the restaurant in the past,” said Mars.