Montana stores not among Bon-Ton’s recent closures

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In September last year, the Kalispell Herberger’s store was celebrating a grand opening. It had just finished a year-long remodel, doubling the store’s size from 40,000 to 80,000 square feet that was lauded as a complement to downtown Kalispell’s ongoing revitalization.

The Flathead High School marching band played as the first 500 customers walked into the new space and received free gifts.

A short six months later, the future of the store has been thrust into uncertainty. Last week, Pennsylvania-based Bon-Ton Stores Inc., the parent company of Herberger’s, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The bankruptcy filing is provoking questions from employees and consumers in communities across the United States about what might happen to their local department stores.

The company, like many department store chains in the U.S., had meek holiday sales at the end of 2017. It has been looking for ways to service its debt, which has neared $1 billion at times, for over a year.

Local Herberger’s Manager Gary Evans declined to speak on the record about potential impacts to the Kalispell store, but said he was leaning on national news headlines to learn about developments within the company just like everyone else. He wasn’t aware of any immediate impacts to the store.

A report from the Wall Street Journal earlier in the week said the company plans to keep all existing stores open while it seeks ways to structure its bankruptcy loans and a plan for the future. It said the company is actively seeking investors, but with such a negative recent financial history it has so far been futile.

The company has created a website dedicated to information about the bankruptcy filing and subsequent restructuring. Included is a list of stores it had previously announced closures for, most of which were in the Midwest and the East Coast. Only one store in Utah was being closed in the Mountain West, and no stores in Montana were named.

The website said the company also plans to maintain full online operations for all of its locations as plans are hammered out. It also said that as of now the store plans to honor all return policies, gift cards and merchandise credits.

Bon-Ton Stores Inc. is one of the largest regional department store chains in the U.S. It operates retail stores under the names of Herberger’s, Bon-Ton, Bergner’s, Boston Store, Carson’s, Elder-Beerman and Younkers.

A spokeswoman from Bon-Ton Stores Inc. did not return a request for comment.

“Decisions regarding our store portfolio will continue to be made based on what makes the best sense for our business just as they always have,” a press release intended to provide customer information noted.

Reporter Peregrine Frissell can be reached at (406) 758-4438 or pfrissell@dailyinterlake.com.

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