ANAHEIM — It is the last original store in what was one of Orange County's first shopping malls, and it will be gone by early next year.
Officials with the Broadway store in the Anaheim Plaza mall told their 160 employees Monday that the department store--built in 1955--would close by Jan. 31.
"It's going to be sad to see it go by the wayside," said Anaheim City Councilman William D. Ehrle, who attended the store's grand opening when he was a 14-year-old boy. "There are a lot of fond memories there."
The store's closing caps long negotiations between mall managers and Broadway owners Carter Hawley Hale Stores Inc. in a deal that clears a path for the transformation of the flagging central city mall into a discount retail center.
Although the closing has long been part of a redevelopment plan for the mall, shoppers and employees expressed sorrow at the passing of what had been until recently a city shopping institution.
"It's a sign of the times," said shopper Jenny Shumar of Tustin, stopping at a clothes rack in the near-empty women's department. "There is really nothing left to draw the people here any more."
Said one store attendant who wished not to be identified: "We hate to see (store employees) get scattered. We are just like a family here."
The employees, who clearly outnumbered shoppers Monday in the 159,000-square-foot department store, will all be offered positions at other Broadway stores in the area, said Bill Dombrowski, a Carter Hawley Hale spokesman.
Broadway's announced departure would leave only one major tenant--Mervyn's--to anchor the planned discount shopping center. Mall managers say, however, that they are negotiating with several outlets that specialize in "popularly priced" merchandise.
With only a handful of stores left in the aging plaza, Monday's absence of shopping traffic in the Broadway and throughout the mall was nothing new in what have been years of decline.
"Yeah, it's always like this, pretty slow," janitor Aurelio Rodriguez said, hard-pressed to find a scrap of litter for his sweeper. "I work the late shift and there's not too much to do."
But the days have not always been so empty.
The plaza and Broadway enjoyed big successes throughout the 1960s and a renovation in the early '70s kept the crowds coming. But age and the fast development of more modern malls in surrounding cities meant hard times for both in subsequent years.
In 1987, Robinson's closed its plaza store in favor of a better location in Santa Ana's new MainPlace, starting a series of painful defections from which the mall and its remaining retailers could not recover.
Last year, the city approved a new redevelopment project proposed by the owners, the State Teachers Retirement System, which calls for the mall's conversion to a discount center.
Under that plan, the 37-year-old Broadway store will be demolished along with other parts of the mall structure, leaving Mervyn's and other expected additions to carry on the central city shopping tradition.
Mayor Fred Hunter said the possibilities include a Wal-Mart store and an upscale grocery chain.
"People have done their homework very well on the new plan," Councilman Ehrle said. "They seem to know the market, and I think this is going to be a very successful center for Anaheim."
Said Hunter: "You can't look back on something like this. We knew what was coming."