Local Business Owners, Leaders Wary Of Elder-Beerman Closing

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ATHENS — Athens business owners and leaders are worried about the fallout that the closing of the clothing store Elder-Beerman from the city’s east-side mall may have on the region. 

Elder Beerman’s parent company, Bon-Ton Stores Inc., announced Wednesday it was closing all retail stores as part of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. 

Elder-Beerman is one of the anchor stores in the Market On State, alongside many local businesses, offices for government agencies like the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles and other retail chains.

Some local business owners in the mall believe their businesses will not be drastically impacted by the decrease in foot traffic because they offer a niche product, like retro video games.

“People that come into this mall either come to go into my store or the hair store or wherever,” Super Retro Land Owner Alex Tracewell said. “We’re like our own separate entity.”

 Although businesses in the mall anticipate less of a financial impact, others worry about the job losses and lack of accessibility to diverse clothing options the closing may have on the community.

“Our biggest concern is the hole it’s going to leave in the community. For a lot of the items you could get at Elder-Beerman, it’ll be hard to find elsewhere in the community,” Brent Hayes, co-owner of the Market On State Mall, said. “You’re also going to have people without jobs, which hopefully we can get people back to work and employed soon.”

Hayes is confident if and when Elder-Beerman leaves, he and his business partner, Tom Parfitt, will be able to find a better vendor to fill in the large space.

“We’re confident we’ll get the spot filled. We’re just not sure with what yet,” Hayes said.

They are looking at a variety of potential options, such as a walk-in healthcare facility, as a new vendor.

Regardless, community business leaders say the larger economic impact will be felt by the city and county.

“Anytime a business leaves Athens, it lays off workers and takes away from our local tax base,” Athens Area Chamber of Commerce President Michelle Oestrike said. “I hope our community members can step up to keep our local businesses strong.”

As Bon Ton Inc.’s bankruptcy proceedings continue, Reuters reports its possible another retailer may buy select stores and reopen them under one of the Bon Ton’s names.