In Flatbush, a beloved Sears department store has remained in business since 1932, its Art Deco building a relic of a bygone era that’s now a protected city landmark.
But the end of line is near for the chain department store, known for its architecture and 100-foot tower at the corner of Beverley Road and Bedford Avenue.
Among the signs: flashy sale posters plastered on the front door. “EVERYTHING MUST GO!” reads one at the entrance. Another reads: “FURNITURE, FIXTURES AND EQUIPMENT FOR SALE.”
Sears is advertising jobs for “Store Closing-Brooklyn,” and a company specializing in retail store liquidations has the Beverley Road store on its Sears “store closing list.” Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2018.
On Saturday, Transformco, a firm that acquired Sears assets, told THE CITY the store will be closing on Nov. 24 — opening a parcel the size of a city block for development.
“This location has potential for redevelopment within a variety of asset classes,” Scott Carr, president of real estate for Transformco, said in a statement. “We intend to reinvigorate and maximize the value of the 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.
“When we lose good things, it becomes heart-rending,” said Lorna Phillips, 60, a clothing designer originally from Jamaica who’s lived in Flatbush for 38 years.
She said the closure will be a major loss for the community, and she’ll miss finding good deals. Over the years, she’s gotten 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 housed in the basement of the three-story building is also set to close. Kmart — a brand that merged with Sears — closed its last outpost in Manhattan in July, now slated to be replaced by a Wegman’s grocery store.
Since Sears’ reign as a retail juggernaut peaked in the 1980s, declining sales have led to the closure of hundreds of Sears locations across the country. Sears and Kmart’s parent company, Transformco, did not respond to THE CITY’s request for comment.
Sears is shuttering its last store in its home state of Illinois, CNBC reported Thursday.
One Sears cashier told THE CITY that workers expect the Brooklyn store to close in December.
The Flatbush Sears closed temporarily at the start of the pandemic, and in April 2020 its sprawling parking lot became one of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s drive-through coronavirus testing sites aimed at communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
In 2012, the building received a landmark designation from the city Landmarks Preservation Commission, protecting its façade based on its historical significance. That means that even once Sears is gone, the building — including its distinctive limestone SEARS tower rising above Flatbush — must remain as is and cannot be demolished.
Initially named Sears, Roebuck & Company, the department store opened on November 5, 1932. Eleanor Roosevelt, while her husband was still New York governor and a presidential candidate, addressed hundreds of people at the grand opening.
Roosevelt reportedly turned the key to open the store and made the first purchase “a pair of baby’s booties,” according to coverage in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle newspaper.
Nearly a century later as the store prepares to close, children’s clothing is still sold there.
On Thursday, local Natalie Acosta passed by the Sears as she walked her 7-year-old daughter home from school. Acosta said they’ll miss the affordable prices.
“I got her winter stuff, a whole ski suit, for literally $3,” said Acosta, 34.
She added that she’s seen the store go from bustling with business to struggling to attract customers in the seven years that she’s lived in the neighborhood.
“I’m surprised it’s even lasted this long,” she said.
“I would love if it were booming like it was before, because it’s a great department store,” she added.
Acosta said she hoped a movie theater would open in its place. Her daughter, Nayafelix, said she would like another store with “more toys.”
Phillips said whatever comes after Sears should benefit the community.
“If they’re gonna bring back stores, bring something more classy or something that will still serve the neighborhood in a good way,” she said.