Homer Alaska - Business

Story last updated at 11:23 AM on Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Here Sunday, gone Monday



By Molly Dischner
Morris News Service - Alaska


 

Photo by M. Scott Moon, Morris News Service - Alaska

Workers who were not allowed to give their names paint over one of the signs at Lowe's in Kenai on Monday morning. The store has been closed.

The Kenai Lowe's has closed its doors a final time.

The store, which opened in November 2008, told employees that they were done after closing Sunday night.

"It is closed for good," said Stacey Lentz, a spokesperson for Lowe's.

Lentz said the store missed sales projections from the outset, which ultimately contributed to the corporation's decision to close the store.

She said it was hard to speculate on the reason for that, but the economy was likely part of the problem.

Kenai Mayor Pat Porter said she thought Lowe's was unlucky with the timing of its opening. She has read that the recession hit retail and real estate the hardest.

"Lowe's is both of those," Porter said. "The retail is specific to real estate."

The Kenai store was the company's only closure in Alaska, but six other stores closed in the United States.

The city of Kenai probably won't be hurt by the closure financially except in how it hurts residents, said Rick Koch, Kenai's city manager.

"The real impact is going to be employees and their families," Koch said.

"We're concerned about them."

Porter agreed.

"My biggest concern and my thoughts certainly go toward the employees and their families," Porter said.

The store has 79 employees. Lentz said 50 worked full time, 29 were part time.

Lentz said employees will receive pay and benefits for 60 days, and a small group is still working to close down the store. The store's inventory is being sent to other stores and back to distribution centers, Lentz said. Sunday was the store's final day of operations; no closing sale is planned.

Lentz said employees can apply to other Lowe's stores, but the closest is in south Anchorage.

Koch said the city hopes the former employees will find new jobs in the area.

"We hope they're able to find similar new employment in a timely way," he said.

Koch said he didn't expect the closure to substantially affect sales tax revenue.

"I doubt that we will lose very much at all," Koch said.

The city didn't see a substantial increase when the store opened, he said. Other stores in Kenai will likely pick up the business that Lowe's was doing.

"I just think that business will go elsewhere in the city," he said.

Recent sales tax numbers for the retail sector that includes Lowe's were not immediately available. Clyde Johnson, from the Kenai Peninsula Borough, said he could not release financial information without approval from the borough's finance director, who is on vacation.

While the store is no longer open for business, customers with special orders will be contacted about finishing out their projects. Most likely, the accounts will be taken care of by the south Anchorage store, Lentz said.

Lowe's owns both the building and the land underneath it, Koch said.

Lentz said the company is looking for a new tenant.

Porter said she hopes Lowe's will be able to sell or lease the building.

"As far as Kenai goes, we still have a strong economic base right here," Porter said.

She cited a number of new and coming businesses, including Stanley Ford, GCI and an O'Reilly auto parts store, all in the same corridor on the Kenai Spur Highway, as proof that there is still a retail market in Kenai. Lowe's was just the wrong type of retail, she said.

Porter and Koch both said they appreciate the effort Lowe's made as a business, and as a part of the community.

Most recently, Lowe's helped sell pies for the Kenai Senior Center during the July Fourth festivities, Porter said.

Porter said the corporation and its local employees were "stellar citizens."

"(Lowe's was) a very good business partner in this community," Porter said.

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