WORTHINGTON - Following a press release last month that announced the closing of 38 Shopko locations, Shopko released an updated list Wednesday of 174 additional closings. This time around, the Worthington location is on the list.
Liquidation will begin next week, and May 12 is slated to be the last day of operation, according to Shopko Public Relations Manager Michelle Hansen. Nearby Shopko stores in Pipestone, Windom and Luverne are not on the new list of closures, though Shopko pharmacies in Luverne and Pipestone did close suddenly last week.
“The go-forward list is comprised of our top-performing stores,” Hansen wrote in an email to The Globe.
Worthington’s Shopko currently staffs 13 full-time employees and 40 part-time employees, Hansen said.
The announcement has drawn many Worthington residents to change.org, where they’ve signed a petition asking Shopko to reverse its decision. The petition comes after Shopko announced last month, just one day after listing its Fairmont store for closure, that it would remain open after all following significant feedback from the community.
“This petition isn't just for Worthington, it's for all the nearby small towns that frequent our Shopko as well,” commented Amy Shirbroun, who signed the petition. “Without Shopko here, it's going to mean more local business lost to Sioux Falls and/or online retailers.”
Worthington Mayor Mike Kuhle said the announcement is a “huge disappointment to the city of Worthington.” He encouraged everyone to sign the petition, which had 2,013 supporters as of 4:30 p.m. Friday afternoon.
“As a community, we need to impress upon (Shopko) the importance of the Worthington store to our community,” he added.
Among the local benefits of the Worthington Shopko are quality goods and convenient service, said Michelle Ebbers, who started the petition. However, she believes that “one of the most important factors is that it has vast economic effects.”
Added Ebbers: “Without Shopko in our community people may leave town in order to purchase basic goods, household goods or clothing items in larger nearby cities.”
Ebbers added that lost local business means lost local tax revenue. She invited the community to join her fight because she did some research and discovered instances in which a petition did save a business in a small town.
“I am not certain if this petition will change Shopko closing in Worthington, but I did feel that it was time to try and act,” she said.
In addition to community efforts, Kuhle also promised that municipal officials will reach out to Shopko and ask the company to reconsider. He acknowledged Shopko’s financial straits as well as the struggles of retail businesses across the country as consumers’ buying habits shift online, but also pointed to the local Runnings multi-million-dollar expansion as evidence of a healthy retail market here in Worthington.
The Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce will also be working locally as well as with Shopko officials to try to save the Worthington store, Chamber Executive Director Darlene Macklin said Friday.
While Kuhle added that the city will work to show Shopko that Worthington is a good investment, he said all hope is not lost if efforts fail to change the minds of Shopko’s corporate executives. Shopko sits on an ideal location and the building is in great shape, he noted. If the company does indeed close the Worthington branch, it’s a good place for another retailer to invest, he said.
As the city approaches these negotiations, Kuhle asked for “the whole community to stand behind us.”
According to Hansen, Shopko will help employees transfer to any open positions in other stores if they are interested. However, with Shopko’s locations to be reduced to a quarter of its current operation, those interested in a transfer may find limited opportunity to do so.
If needed, Kuhle promised the city’s help in finding new jobs for those individuals.