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Sears closing over 100 stores, including Hanford

HANFORD — Sears Holdings, the parent company of Sears and Kmart stores, announced on Thursday that it will close over 100 stores, including the Hanford store located inside the Hanford Mall.

The Hanford Sears store, located at 1679 W Lacey Blvd., is one of 39 Sears stores and 64 Kmart stores that will shut its doors in early April. The Hanford Sears Auto Center will close near the end of the month.

The Kmart in Lemoore was not on the list of store closures.

In a released statement, the company said: “Sears Holdings continues its strategic assessment of the productivity of our Kmart and Sears store base and will continue to right size our store footprint in number and size. In the process, as previously announced we will continue to close some unprofitable stores as we transform our business model so that our physical store footprint and our digital capabilities match the needs and preferences of our members.”

The company did not disclose how many employees will be affected by the closures, but did say the employees will receive severance and will also have the opportunity to apply for open positions at other local Sears or Kmart stores.

John Lehn, president/CEO of Kings County Economic Development Corporation, said he is not sure how many associates the Hanford Sears store employs, but said Kings EDC will reach out to the managers of the store to offer its services.

He said Kings EDC will assist the employees by offering training to get them re-employed as soon as possible.

Joanne Doerter, general manager of the Hanford Mall, said it's always sad to hear when a retailer closes stores and said it's unfortunate that Hanford is one of the locations.

"We will look for a replacement tenant or tenants as quickly as we possibly can," Doerter said of the 75,852-square-foot space. 

Liquidation sales will begin as early as Jan. 12 at the closing stores.

Seniors and vets make do with Goodwill building

HANFORD — When the Veterans Memorial Building was closed in November, it was a scramble for the city and organizations to find alternative locations for events that were held in the building, but things seem to finally be calming down.

Hanford City Manager Darrel Pyle said all the activities that took place at the Veterans Building have been relocated, saying the city is “utilizing every square foot of indoor space” it has.

At the Nov. 21 Hanford City Council meeting, City Attorney Bob Dowd said information regarding the building’s roof was brought to light from the city’s public works department. Dowd said the roofing structure was “suspect at best” and Council unanimously decided the building would immediately close the next day.

It was later revealed that the building’s bowstring roof trusses were not operating properly and was subject to failure.

Because the city didn’t want anyone to get hurt if the process to close the building took too long, the item was added to the council meeting as an emergency and all five Council members voted to close the building immediately.

This closure sent the organizations that occupied the building and the events held regularly in the building to scramble to find new locations. Two groups that regularly use the building are the American Legion and Hanford Senior Citizens Inc.

Both organizations have been indefinitely moved to the old Goodwill Building at 426 W. Lacey Blvd. 

James Landolt, commander of the American Legion of Hanford Post 3, said the organization has an office in the Goodwill building and has been able to hold meetings and work with other organizations to find alternative locations for events.

Landolt said the city worked hard to get the building up-and-running and the Goodwill building is now fully functional with electric, heating and plumbing. He said the space is plain, but it works.

He said the American Legion is trying to get some decorations and flags to make the place feel more welcome and home-like.

“Is it pretty? No,” Landolt said of the Goodwill building. “But it has the potential to be nice for the community.”

The building also doesn’t have a kitchen, so certain events are more difficult to pull off, but Landolt said nothing is undoable.

The situation seems to be working for the Hanford Senior Citizens Inc. as well.

Board President Gail Soto said the organization’s bingo crowd has actually grown since moving into the Goodwill building and credits the building’s accessible location.

“It’s a good place for everything,” Soto said. “It’s working out really well.”

Soto said there is only one problem with the Goodwill building, the floors are uneven and are considered a tripping hazard, so no senior dances can take place inside the building. She said unless a hall can be found, the seniors are out of a dance night.

Soto said it wouldn’t take much to level the floor out and hopes materials can be donated so that more functions can be held at the Goodwill building. If not, she said the organization is in talks to partner up with the Lemoore Senior Citizens Center and possibly host dances in Lemoore’s newly remodeled hall.

Both Hanford Senior Citizens Inc. and the American Legion of Hanford expect to call the Goodwill building home for at least the next year, if not longer.

Landolt said the situation has been an inconvenience and he would like to be back in the Veterans Building as soon as possible, but is not complaining about the situation because the city did all it could.

“We’ll do what all military and veterans know how to do, which is adapt,” Landolt said. “We figure while we’re here we might as well make the best of it.”

The city leases the Veterans Memorial Building from Kings County and Pyle said the city has asked a structural engineer to provide a detailed analysis of the roof system and a construction solution with an estimated cost for work. He said he hopes to have that document back by the end of February.

Pyle previously said work could take more than a year and doesn’t expect the Veteran’s Building to be inhabitable until at least 2019.

For now, Parks and Recreation programs like Zumba, exercise classes and certain senior activities have been moved to the Longfield Center on South Douty Street

Soto and Landolt both said they are grateful to anyone who has donated or helped their organizations find new homes for events, especially at the last minute.

“At least we have someplace for the seniors to go,” Soto said. “We would like people to keep standing behind the Hanford seniors.”

Now that the American Legion has an office inside the Goodwill building, Landolt said his next mission is to get the word out and make sure people know where the new location is and that the same services are still provided.

“We may have been temporarily moved, but we’re definitely not going away,” Landolt said.

Julissa Zavala, The Sentinel 

The Veterans Memorial Building, which sits next to the Hanford Civic Auditorium at 401 N. Douty St., has been condemned due to a "suspect" roof. Activities held in the building are being relocated.