RACINE — Shopko’s footprint is going to be even smaller with the upcoming closing of 174 more stores nationwide, including its Racine and Kenosha stores and 20 more in Wisconsin.
The announcement means that by this spring, Shopko will no longer have a presence in Racine County. In January, Shopko announced the closing of 38 stores, and Racine and Kenosha escaped being on that list.
Not this time.
The announcement came after the Ashwaubenon-based retailer said in late 2018 that it would close 39 stores. In totality, the closings will leave Shopko with just 109 stores compared with the 360 the company now lists on its website.
Shopko, which was purchased in 2005 by Sun Capital Partners, a private equity group, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month and said it is restructuring “as a result of excess debt and ongoing competitive pressures.”
The Racine Shopko opened in November 1979, nearly four decades ago, after the Westgate Outdoor Theater, and later Turn-Style at Washington Avenue and Ohio Street were torn down to make way for what was then being called Westgate Mall.
Construction on the Kenosha Shopko, at 5300 52nd St., started the next year, in 1980.
For many months to date, as Shopko was having more and more troubles, the Racine and Kenosha Shopko stores were often staffed at mere skeleton-crew levels.
With Shopko’s upcoming closing, Westgate Square shopping center will lose its anchor. Westgate is owned by Heritage Capital Assets of Park Ridge, Ill. Mike Christie, president of Heritage, could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday evening.
Shopko, with dozens of stores across the state, many in smaller communities, has obtained $480 million in debtor-in-possession financing to help fund and protect its operations through the Chapter 11 process. The money will be used to pay suppliers, vendors and other business partners, according to its filing at the time.
Company officials could not be reached Wednesday for comment.
“In a challenging retail environment, we have had to make some very tough choices, but we are confident that by operating a smaller and more focused store footprint, we will be able to build a stronger Shopko that will better serve our customers, vendors, employees and other stakeholders through this process,” Russ Steinhorst, Shopko’s CEO, said in a statement posted on the company’s website last month at the time of the filing.
In December, Kroger, one of the largest grocery store chains in the country and the owner of Roundy’s, the parent company of Pick ‘n Save, announced it was buying the records of over three dozen Shopko pharmacies, including the one in Racine. That was followed by Iowa-based Hy-Vee announcing days later that it had purchased the records from another 22 Shopko pharmacies. The Hy-Vee deal was for pharmacies in 17 cities, but the only Wisconsin store on the list was the Shopko Pharmacy in Madison. The rest were in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota.
“In a challenging retail environment, we have had to make some very tough choices, but we are confident that by operating a smaller and more focused store footprint, we will be able to build a stronger Shopko that will better serve our customers, vendors, employees and other stakeholders through this process.” Russ Steinhorst, Shopko’s CEO