The recent news of clothing retailer Forever 21 closing its Hanford Mall location came as a surprise to many in the community. Now, three more stores are closing too: R-N Market on Hanford Armona Road, Gifts of Hope inside the Hanford Mall and Brown’s Shoe Fit Company on Seventh Street in downtown Hanford.

“I thought things were starting to turn around the other way,” said Mike Bertaina, CEO of the Hanford Chamber of Commerce. “This is definitely a cause for concern.”

The R-N Market has been operating in south Hanford for 35 years. R-N’s store director Neng Lee attributed the closure to competition from other supermarkets, as well as the prospect of facing off against Costco or a Winco — rumored to be coming to Hanford. The store closes March 31 and currently employs around 50 people.

A lot of the customers that shop at R-N, Lee said, walk to the store. “Now they will have to walk a lot further to get their groceries.”

Lee also cited the rising minimum wage and increasing health care costs as factors in the closure.

During the 35 years, the grocer has been a destination for many budget-conscious shoppers, such as Hanford resident Linda Murr.

“The other supermarkets will become too crowded,” she said. She also said that R-N is the only place in town to get specialized ingredients for Asian cuisine dishes.

Gifts of Hope

Also closing is Gifts of Hope in the Hanford Mall.

“We’ve been open since November 2014,” said store manager Lenita Vidurri. She attributes the closure of the store, which sells a number of books and gifts, to a number of factors, including competition from the likes of Amazon.

“It’s impossible to compete with Amazon,” Vidurri said. “They can sell you books for a dollar.”

Gifts of Hope employs three people. “This is our livelihood,” Vidurri said.

Vidurri also stated that Hope lacks the advertising budget that other mall stores have.

“When we first opened, we tried a lot of stuff. We went to the farmers market and handed out flyers and saw no business from that. We even brought in a children’s choir from a local church to sing and that didn’t work either,” she said.

Vidurri said that she is scrambling to find her next job.

Brown’s shoes

Brown’s Shoe Fit Company on Seventh Street will be closing its doors after 103 years of business.

Staff at the shoe store declined to comment for the story.

The closure of Brown’s is just one more cause for concern in the downtown Hanford area, according to Bertaina. “If you take a walk around downtown, you’ll see a dozen or more empty buildings,” he said.

Looking to fill those vacancies is Shelly Talbert, the executive director of Main Street Hanford, an organization dedicated to revitalizing the downtown area.

“Concentric growth is so important to the success of any town,” Talbert said, meaning that if Hanford is to prosper, that prosperity must come from the core. In this case, the core is the downtown Hanford area.

Talbert said that to revitalize downtown Hanford will take cooperation between community members and city officials. Talbert said that the members of the Hanford community can support Main Street’s efforts by attending events downtown and supporting the businesses there.

Talbert said that her highest priorities are attracting new businesses to the downtown area, and she is optimistic about her efforts. She has been speaking with a number of prospective entrepreneurs who have been interested in opening stores.

“We need support from the community and city officials,” Talbert stressed a second time, “until we get everyone to say they support a strong downtown.”

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