September 19, 2021
In Flatbush, a beloved Sears department store has been in business since 1932, its Art Deco building is a relic of a bygone era that is now a protected city landmark.
But the end of the line is near for the department store chain, known for its architecture and its 100-foot tower at the corner of Beverley Road and Bedford Avenue.
Among the signs: flashy sales posters plastered on the front door. “EVERYTHING MUST DISAPPEAR!” reads one at the entrance. Another reads: “FURNITURE, FIXTURES AND EQUIPMENT FOR SALE”.
Sears advertises jobs for “Store Closing-Brooklyn” and a company specializing in retail store closeouts has the Beverley Road store on its Sears “store closing list.” Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2018.
On Saturday, Transformco, a company that acquired the assets of Sears, told THE CITY that the store would close Nov. 24 – opening a block-sized plot for development.
âThis location has redevelopment potential in a variety of asset classes,â Scott Carr, president of real estate for Transformco, said in a statement. “We intend to reinvigorate and maximize the value of real estate to meet the needs of the Brooklyn market.”
The store – the last remaining Sears outpost in New York City – has been a shopping staple for generations of families in the Brooklyn neighborhood.
âWhen we lose good things it becomes heartbreaking,â said Lorna Phillips, 60, a clothing designer from Jamaica who has lived in Flatbush for 38 years.
She said the closure will be a major loss for the community and that she will fail to find any good deals. Over the years, it got low prices on everything from perfume, blankets, and a vacuum cleaner to a DVD player when the technology first came out in the 1990s.
A Kmart located in the basement of the three-story building is also expected to close. Kmart – a brand that merged with Sears – closed its last Manhattan outpost in July, which is now slated to be replaced by a Wegman’s grocery store.
Signs advertise a clearance sale at Sears on Beverley Road in Flatbush, Brooklyn /Gabriel Sandoval / THE CITY
Since Sears’ reign as a retail juggernaut peaked in the 1980s, declining sales have resulted in the closure of hundreds of Sears stores across the country. Sears and Kmart’s parent company, Transformco, did not respond to THE TOWN’s request for comment.
Sears is closing its last store in its home state of Illinois, CNBC reported Thursday.
A Sears cashier told THE TOWN that workers expect the Brooklyn store to close in December.
The Flatbush Sears temporarily closed at the start of the pandemic, and in April 2020 its expansive parking lot became one of former Governor Andrew Cuomo’s drive-thru coronavirus testing sites aimed at communities disproportionately affected by COVID- 19.
In 2012, the building received a landmark designation from the City’s Monuments Preservation Commission, protecting its facade based on its historical significance. This means that even after Sears is gone, the building – including its separate SEARS limestone tower towering above Flatbush – must remain as is and cannot be demolished.
Originally named Sears, Roebuck & Company, the department store opened on November 5, 1932. Eleanor Roosevelt, while her husband was still New York governor and presidential candidate, addressed hundreds of people at the the inauguration.
Roosevelt allegedly turned the key to open the store and made the first purchase “a pair of baby booties,” according to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle newspaper cover.
Almost a century later, as the store is about to close, children’s clothing is still sold there.
Local Natalie Acosta walked past the Sears on Thursday as she walked her 7-year-old home home after school. Acosta said they will miss out on the affordable prices.
âI got his winter stuff, a full ski suit, for literally $ 3,â said Acosta, 34.
She added that she has seen the store go from being a commercial activity to having a hard time attracting customers in the seven years she has lived in the neighborhood.
“I’m surprised it even lasted this long,” she said.
âI would love for it to be booming like before, because it’s a big store,â she added.
Acosta said she hoped a cinema would open in her place. Her daughter, Nayafelix, said she would like another store with “more toys”.
Phillips said anything that comes after Sears should benefit the community.
âIf they want to bring back stores, bring something fancier or something that will always serve the neighborhood in a good way,â she said.
This story was originally posted on September 18, 2021 by LA VILLE. Sign up here to receive the latest stories from THE CITY every morning.
THE CITY is an independent, non-profit news organization dedicated to impactful reporting serving the people of New York City.