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Some wonder if Mason City’s Younkers store will survive 2018

This news story was published on December 30, 2017.
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Mason City’s Younkers store,
at Southbridge Mall

MASON CITY – It might be too late for Mason City’s fabled Renaissance Project to save it’s biggest downtown retailer.

The Younkers store in Mason City’s Southbridge Mall has been an anchor in the shopping center since it opened in 1985. Younkers, along with its parent company Bon Ton Stores, Inc., have fallen on hard times with the advent of online shopping, changing consumer tastes and habits over the years and of course, the construction of the Indianhead shopping district west of town. Southbridge Mall is a shadow of what it once was in it’s short-lived heyday that ended in the mid-1990’s when, NIT is told by former elected officials, mall owners first sought an easement of property tax burdens and assessed value. Today, Younkers remains open and even sought to expand in the mall, recently, with a renovation. The city council had approved in 2016 a $250,000 forgivable loan to Bon-Ton for relocation of its Home Store into the now-closed movie theater area of the mall. The plan never materialized, as New Yorker Michael Kohan bought the mall for just $1.5 million later that year.

Proposed hotel from
G8 Development, near Younkers

As the sun sets on 2017, ominous signs paint a dreary picture for Bon Ton and Younkers, even as Mason City inches closer to someday breaking ground on the elusive Renaissance Project – a development that would surround Younkers with possible vibrant goings-on like a hotel, convention center, arena, museum and pavilion.  The project might not be ready in time to deliver the souls with paper and plastic so vital to keeping a retail business alive that seems on the brink.  Just last month, Bon Ton Stores, Inc, said they expect to close dozens of stores.

“We expect to implement a significant store rationalization program and plan to close at least 40 locations through 2018,” the company said on November 16.  The company hasn’t named which stores might be on the list.

Reports pop-up in online searches of possible imminent bankruptcy for Bon Ton Stores, Inc.  According to MSN Money, “When it comes to bankruptcies, the worst is yet to come, especially for Bon-Ton Stores Inc.

Southbridge Mall parking lot,
possible home to new hotel
located outside the
main entrance to Younkers

“While Sears has held on for longer than anyone could’ve imagined, Bon-Ton is facing an imminent filing, according to (an economist they interviewed). He predicts the department store will declare bankruptcy in early 2018. It skipped a $14 million bond payment, due Dec. 15, and is now in the middle of a 30-day grace period before facing a default. Typically, a company files for bankruptcy at that point.”

The word from Yahoo News isn’t much better for the once-vibrant retailer, whose stock now trades at around 34 cents a share. It lists Bon Ton as one of “17 Retailers on the 2018 Death Watch“.

“Bon-Ton Stores has not been left unscathed,” Yahoo reported this month. “The chain saw its comparable-store sales drop by 6.6% in Q3, and its loss climbed from $31.6 million in Q3 2016 to $44.9 million in Q3 this year. Bon-Ton has also been closing stores and plans to shutter at least 40 of its locations in 2018. The company has retained AlixPartners LLP and PJT Partners Inc. to provide operational and financial advisory services.”

As Bon Ton follows through with its planned store closures next year, it’s unclear whether company officials will take into account the circumstances in Mason City that might give their store here a better chance of survival.

A Marshalls store was
under construction in Mason City
but never opened.  It sits much
like it is pictured, above.

The city has learned to deal with the failures of big retailers.  JC Penny closed in January of 2015, dealing a blow to Soutbridge but creating on opportunity to re-purpose that end of the mall; KMart closed in April of 2014, but that big box has been re-configured into the Ashley Furniture Store and other shops; Sears closed in 2015 and remains dark; a Marshalls department store was under construction in Mason City but failed to open in 2014 when it was discovered a waiver from Kohl’s stores would be required for the business to open – Kohl’s never gave the waiver; a TJ Maxx store opened in August of 2016.

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23 Responses to Some wonder if Mason City’s Younkers store will survive 2018

  1. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    January 5, 2018 at 12:53 pm

    Maybe if they didn’t print all those worthless coupons that you can’t use on 99% of the store they could save millions.

  2. Avatar

    Tax Payer Reply Report comment

    January 3, 2018 at 6:59 am

    CITY of Mason City killed the Mall, and downtown, years ago when they allowed Walmart to expand on the West side of town. Younkers AND Shopko are both on the way out. If Younkers had a pharmacy they would survive and thrive… high priced HyVee Rx much needed competition! Even ‘IF’ the ice arena is completed downtown, the mall will NEVER fill in again ! Tax payer nightmare is the future with this deal. Negligent city leadership is to blame for the failed downtown, and now they want to funnel tax payer dollars into this waste of time and good money, to ‘undo’ the pathetic/irresponsible actions of past city leadership. UGH !

    SCHICKEL….what happened to the government grant that was given for the pavement of Central Heights streets all those years ago ? How come Janet Solberg did not fight for her ‘hood to get those funds restored for C.H. neighborhood ? Janet, Janet, Janet….so long, good riddance ! Just exactly what happened to that money? Better be watching the ‘NEW MAYOR” and the city checkbook !

    :… John ‘leaker’ Lee still on the council ?

  3. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    January 1, 2018 at 10:43 pm

    Jeeeeeezus ! Wake up stupids! Obviously the leaders the last few years aren’t making this place work or any better. Really? Duh.

    Great one Less place to choose from. We Only have 5 to 7 Places to go to as it is. We already all look alike . Yeeees we do, no denial girls.
    Not everyone gets to shop out of state.

    Y’all better Think about what’s coming for this freak place. Then think again !

  4. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    January 1, 2018 at 4:46 pm

    Mason City will make at the expense of the taxpayers. Sad!

  5. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    January 1, 2018 at 12:58 pm

    I would bet it doesn’t make it.

  6. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    December 31, 2017 at 7:48 pm

    The headlines should have read, WILL MASON CITY SURVIVE 2018.

  7. Avatar

    Joshua cassady Reply Report comment

    December 31, 2017 at 4:30 pm

    Mason city is losing residents over this crap. My property tax has almost doubled since 2008. I know several family groups moving out of town due to the over pricing of rent for the area, mixed with property taxes going up and nothing ever getting done. Voting the same losers into office just continues the problems. Too often I find the fake wealthy in this town make the decisions for the majority. They are so used to taking loans and pretending to be wealthy, it’s a no brainer to waste more money on a hockey arena that will never make long term profits. I’m purchasing land in another state, and my family will be moving. Mason city doesn’t have anything to offer anymore. Retail Jobs are not enough for people to want to stay here, and that seems to be the only thing wanting to come to this area of the country. Enjoy your dirty air, and polluted waters.

    • Avatar

      Anonymous Reply Report comment

      January 1, 2018 at 10:08 am

      Mason City has been losing people since 1970. It’s not the recent property tax increases (btw, thanks Terry Branstad) that are making people leave. It is the reliance on shrinking industries like traditional manufacturing and agriculture that are causing by the decline of our town. Our populace has been unwilling to make the investments to lure growth industries… instead we wait around and hope a typewriter factory will set up shop in Mason City.

  8. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    December 31, 2017 at 2:17 pm

    If younkers gets picked as one of the stores to be closed the mall might as well kiss their rosey red ass goodbye, “Take this mall and shove it I aint shopping there no more”

  9. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    December 31, 2017 at 11:17 am

    After all the controversy, design stealing, modifications and developer trading, would you still vote YES to this fiasco downtown project MC? All of this headache for a hockey arena, yes, the hockey people pushed this vote, bias YES.

    • Avatar

      Anonymous Reply Report comment

      January 1, 2018 at 10:02 am

      I would absolutely vote yes for most any quality of life enhancing project (like a multi purpose arena) that makes me his city more appealing to the young and educated workforce that growth industries require. This town is slowly withering away and I would like to see it prosper once again.

      Anyone that has been in a leadership position can tell you that no large project is easy to pull off and flexibility is key to overcoming the adversity that ALWAYS accompanies any large project.

  10. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    December 31, 2017 at 9:29 am

    Large corporations don’t use their own money – they just get not so honest elected officials put in office and tell them they want to fleece the working public to put out their hard earned money for their gain. Let’s see – follow the money trail ??? and of course the BRIBES.

  11. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    December 31, 2017 at 9:17 am

    Amazon probably will put them out of business – man I just watched a video on Infro Wars about Amazon – Filthy working conditions -people washing their azz cracks in the washrooms and chitting on the flloors (mostly immigrants working there) NOT NEW items – they sell – majority of items are returns and some clothes worn – some items even had bed bugs in them – they buy these returns from large companies – clean them (spray with perfume (make sure you smell clothing) if it smells like perfume or other scents it used as most of their items are only fit for goodwill. (sleazy company and employees (migrants live in Amazon rentals units like the slave labors of the old time coal mines and plantations did. Liberal socialism at its best by the democratic party. PUKE!

  12. Avatar

    MC £ Reply Report comment

    December 31, 2017 at 4:08 am

    Bulldoze South bridge and have a Main Street again

    • Avatar

      Anonymous Reply Report comment

      December 31, 2017 at 11:09 am


    • Avatar

      Ezekiel Reply Report comment

      December 31, 2017 at 1:33 pm

      Absolutely. Dumb move in the first place.

    • Avatar

      Anonymous Reply Report comment

      December 31, 2017 at 7:33 pm

      Have to agree 100%!! Look at the percentages of Malls Nationwide headed out of business in this day and age!! Seems like the old “downtown” shops/towns are making a better go than the malls!! Opening up Federal again could be a brand new spark to Mason City! I understand the Hockey Rink/Hotel moving in, but let’s get on with the times of what will really rejuvenate this city!!

  13. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    December 31, 2017 at 1:19 am

    Cant see them closing, one the project is completed they will have to add on as all the people staying at the hotel and going to the hockey games will completely fill the stores aisles. do ya all want to hear another fairy tale??

  14. Avatar

    IowaBoy Reply Report comment

    December 30, 2017 at 11:35 pm

    Yeah, I read about Bon-Ton/Younkers problems a few days ago in USA Today. They were lumped in with Sears and JC Penneys as stores that won’t make it through 2018. Something else that should have been considered before we gave them $250,000. I Can’t believe the lies and obvious deception surrounding this Hotel/Hockey project… but they ignore the lies and push it forward. I hope the State sees through it all and shuts it down, if the lawsuits don’t! Congrats ISU!!

    • Avatar

      Anonymous Reply Report comment

      December 31, 2017 at 11:10 am

      MC is just corrupted from the boards to it’s law enforcement.

  15. Avatar

    N.E.MCMAN Reply Report comment

    December 30, 2017 at 10:31 pm


    You drive north on US65 on the west side of the loop and see the “Younkers” store front. Nice looking sign/entrance, albeit somewhat dated, is free advertising for the store on one of the more traveled roads in Mason City.

    2 years from now-

    Hotel/Music Man Square completely blocks their signage on the front of the mall. Won’t even know the store exists until you are driving past the south entrance of the mall and it is too late to turn in.

    Younkers has been WAY too quiet on this project. They probably don’t care as they know the store will be closed before the hotel is open.

    • Avatar

      Black Kettles Reply Report comment

      December 31, 2017 at 8:49 am

      Really? When was the last time you had no idea there was a Younkers store somewhere, saw a sign while driving and immediately turned in to go shopping?

      “Hey honey look! It’s a Younkers! Let’s ditch our plans and check it out!”
      Said no one ever.

      • Avatar

        Anonymous Reply Report comment

        December 31, 2017 at 11:12 am

        Great comment MC man.. it’s does matter if signage is visual. Only a no brained idiot would think otherwise.