By SAMANTHA PIDDE
Savanna's Shopko Hometown location is one of approximately 250 stores across the nation that will be closing in 2019, it was announced last week.
In December Shopko announced it would be closing 39 stores and in January the company filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy, announcing another 38 stores would be closed.
Last Wednesday, Feb. 6, Shopko announced the closing of an additional 139 Shopko and Shopko Hometown stores and the relocation of about 50 optical centers from closing stores to new locations.
Savanna's Shopko Hometown store is on this list, which is slated to close by May 5.
The Shopko Hometown opened in Savanna in August 2012, at 251 S. 4th St., at the former Pamida Store location.
Savanna Mayor Chris Lain shared Shopko's announcement of the closures in a Wednesday, Feb. 6, post on his Facebook page.
"When a company files bankruptcy, some very tough decisions are necessary in order to come out of it,” Mayor Lain wrote in the post. “In this case, Shopko is trying to attract a buyer and believes operating with a much smaller retail foot print will help.
Added Mayor Lain, “My heart goes out to all the employees and their families, not only in Savanna but across the Nation, who will be with out a job soon. Losing another retailer is not an easy thing on a community this size. But it is important we think of those losing so much more right now."
Savanna Chamber of Commerce President Tammy Spittler said in an email that everyone at the chamber is "saddened" by the announcement of the store's closing, echoing Lain's sentiment that their "hearts go out to their loyal employees."
"This store was vital to our small town, not only for tourism, but it also enhanced the quality of lives of those within the community,” said Spittler. “Shopko held a presence and was the gathering point for many events and parades held in Savanna, and it will truly be missed,"
Added the Savanna Chamber President, "Losing Shopko will most definitely be a loss for Savanna and other nearby communities alike. We hope a new business will be interested in the location and we look forward to welcoming any prospective business to Savanna and encourage all to shop local and support our home town businesses so that both the businesses and community can thrive."
Lain's Facebook post pointed out that once the store closes, he plans to begin working with area economic partners and property owners "to try and fill the vacant space."
In an email sent Friday, Feb. 8, to the Savanna Times-Journal, Mayor Lain added that as online retail grows, he expects to see the "evolution of retail to continue to grow and change."
"I believe sometimes when something like this happens it creates opportunities for others," Mayor Lain said. "Whether it be an existing retailer expanding their assortment or an opportunity to fill an empty storefront downtown with a new shop, Savanna has some great opportunities right now."
Lain said the city of Savanna has some great incentives to encourage businesses, mentioning that Savanna's business area is a TIF zone, Enterprise Zone and Opportunity Zone.
He added that Savanna has a very active Chamber of Commerce and is part of the Northwest Illinois Economic Development group.
"I have already spoken with the owner of the former True Value property (which closed at the end of December) and will reach out to the owners of the Shopko property soon to see how we can work together to get these locations filled,” said Lain.
“I will also work with the Chamber and Main Street in Motion to step up efforts to fill the remaining empty storefronts in Savanna. I encourage everyone to stay positive and remember if we want to attract more businesses we need to show them we support the ones still here. Continue to support our local retailers."
Founded in 1962, Shopko's headquarters are in Green Bay, Wis. The company operates more than 360 stores within 26 states.
For a complete list of all of the Shopko stores set to be closed, visit http://info.shopko.com/closing-locations.pdf.