Sears closing store in Charlestowne Mall

ST. CHARLES – Sears will close its store in Charlestowne Mall on March 20, company officials said Tuesday.

A liquidation sale will begin Friday, Sears spokesman Kim Freely said. The two-story, nearly 100,000-square-foot store is closing because its lease has not been renewed, she said.

Store employees were informed Tuesday morning of the store’s closing, Freely said.

St. Charles Economic Development Director Chris Aiston said negotiations broke down between Sears and the owners of the mall.

“Sears chose not to renew the lease,” Aiston said. “These negotiations did not prove to be fruitful for both parties. It is disappointing to us.”

The store opened in 1991.

The news took city officials by surprise.

Aiston said mall ownership had been assuring city officials that lease negotiations with current tenants were of the utmost importance and that discussions have been positive and ongoing.

“In fact, recent overtures by ownership indicated that the city could expect plan submittals for new restaurant and family-centered venues this calendar year,” a city news release stated.

St. Charles Mayor Don DeWitte said he was disappointed that neither the mall ownership group nor Sears approached the city seeking assistance.

“There are tools at our disposal where we may have found a way to bridge the gap between landlord and tenant, at least until economic recovery and consumer confidence are strengthened,” DeWitte said in a statement.

City officials last summer announced that a group of California-based investors with experience in revitalizing distressed malls had purchased the mall.

Charlestowne Mall Investments is a privately funded California real estate investment company led by Alan Wong and Bobby Montanye.

Efforts to contact the mall manager and Charlestowne Mall Investments were not successful.

DeWitte also voiced frustration over the lack of communication between the new mall ownership and the city.

“The communication between mall ownership and the city has been either nonexistent or arguably disingenuous since taking over in May 2010,” DeWitte said.

“While I understand that Sears has continued to struggle nationally and locally, I don’t understand the company’s decision to not explore all options before reaching this decision. My question is – does either company understand the impact on its loyal employees and customers, many of which are St. Charles residents?”