Gottschalks sets Sept. 7 debut

Posted: Wednesday, August 09, 2000

The former Lamonts Apparel store in the Nugget Mall is scheduled to reopen Sept. 7 as Gottschalks.

The new clothing store will include a wider selection of brand names, an extensive home department including bed and bath items and cookery, more employees, greater credit opportunities and a more spruced-up look, according to Gottschalks officials.

``We're so excited about it,'' said Debbie Oleman, who has been retained by Gottschalks as store manager in Juneau. ``Every time we go out into the mall, merchants are asking us when we're going to open.''

Oleman will be surrounded by familiar faces: The entire permanent staff of Lamonts is staying on in Juneau. The year-round staff of 25, with a mix of full- and part-time employees, will be increased to 30 to 35 people, Oleman said.

There also will be new hires.

``We knew going in that Lamonts was understaffed,'' said Fred Bentelspacher, vice president of Gottschalks, a Fresno, Calif.-based department store chain.

Store reopenings are happening this month in the Pacific Northwest, but Alaska stores will open a little bit later because of shipping distances for merchandise, Bentelspacher said.

The Nugget Mall store has been closed since June 25, when a liquidation sale ended.

It was one of 37 Lamonts outlets acquired by Gottschalks in May.

The sale, the culmination of a filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, was formally completed late last month, with Gottschalks acquiring all seven Lamonts stores in Alaska, as well as 30 in Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Utah. Gottschalks sold one of those leases and terminated two others, but announced it would operate at the other 34 locations. The company paid $20.1 million to take over Lamonts' leases, fixtures and equipment.

The Nugget Mall store is being cleaned and painted now, and customers also will notice ``more visual merchandising of the store'' when it reopens, with more displays and an upscale look, Oleman said.

Gottschalks will maintain the 10 percent discount that Lamonts offered on Tuesdays to customers 55 years and older, she said. There also will be new discount programs and a credit card for junior customers, who can charge within limits set by their parents or guardians, she said.

Gottschalks Inc., which has operated 42 department stores and 20 specialty apparel stores in four Western states, was founded in 1904.

Lamonts, founded in 1967 and based in Kirkland, Wash., filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code on Jan. 4, 2000, the second time it had done so within five years. The company said it had been hurt by Y2K computer expenses, a lack of capital and poor sales due to cool summer weather in the Pacific Northwest in 1999.

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