Stage store closing down

"Houston, Tex.-based Stage Stores, Inc., has announced it will close 120 of its 591 Stage, Palais Royal, and Bealls clothing stores across the country, including the South Kitsap Mall store in Port Orchard, by the end of the year.We deeply regret having to take this step, said Jack Wiesner, interim CEO and president of Stage Stores, Inc. We've had to make thee very difficult decision to close some stores that have meant very much to us.The struggling chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on June 1.We have no set schedule for closing, said Port Orchard Stage store assistant manager Amy Novak. It depends on our inventory. When it's gone, we'll close down. But the latest that will be is Nov. 1.The Port Orchard store opened two years ago. Novak declined to comment on whether its performance was better or worse than others across the country.It's not a reflection on any particular store, she said. The company is closing all of its stores in this district.Stage operated three stores in Washington; in addition to Port Orchard, that included locations in Omak and Stanwood. The district that included Washington also included six branches in Oregon.Stage Stores, Inc., announced in a press release it would try when possible to find other jobs within the company for those displaced by the store closures, but Novak said she was unaware of any of the Port Orchard location's 10 employees whose jobs would be saved.Closure of the 20,000-square-foot Port Orchard Stage store presents problems for South Kitsap Mall, if only superficial ones. The free-standing 27,000-square-foot building that had housed Stage is actually owned by Albertsons, which operated a grocery store on the site until six years ago.Albertson's has a land-lease agreement with us and they're responsible for paying the rent whether there's a tenant there or not, said mall property manager Rick Gehring. Financially, it doesn't hurt us directly for Stage to leave. But it doesn't help our image to have that great big store standing open like that. Ninety-nine percent of the people who drive by still think it belongs to us, and it doesn't look very good."

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