Local J.C. Penney stores wait for word on future

By dave benjamin


An Eckerd drug store at Route 79 and School Road West, Marlboro, is among the stores scheduled to be closed by the J.C. Penney Co. Inc.


n an attempt to restructure the corporation after a fourth quarter net loss of 8 cents per share and to save $530 million, the J.C. Penney Co. Inc. plans to close 40 to 45 department stores and about 300 Eckerd drug stores nationwide.

Several Eckerd drug stores in the Monmouth-Middlesex region have already been identified as those that will close. Information on which J.C. Penney department stores are to close is ex-pected to be made public in a matter of weeks.

"A total of 40 to 50 department stores will be closing and about 300 Eckerd drug stores will also close," said Stephanie Brown, spokeswoman for J.C. Penney, Plano, Texas. "During the next two weeks the public will find out which stores will close."

James E. Oesterreicher, chairman and CEO, said in a news release, "Improving the profitability of our core department store and drug store businesses is our top priority and has caused us to take a hard look at department stores and drug stores that are under-performing and lack future strategic fit."

At three J.C. Penney stores in the region — Freehold Raceway Mall, Freehold Township, Brunswick Square Mall, East Brunswick, and Monmouth Mall, Eatontown — employees are waiting word from corporate directors.

Jim Adams, assistant store manager at Freehold Raceway Mall, said he does not believe his store will be closing.

Arthur Kondrup, president of the Western Monmouth Cham-ber of Commerce, Freehold, said he believes the Freehold J.C. Penney is doing well and said he’d had no indication from mall management that a closing is imminent.

"You know as much as I do," said Dick Ackerman, store manager of the J.C. Penney at Bruns-wick Square Mall. "We have been told nothing. I read (it) in the paper. All I know is what the press releases say."

Barry Morman, store manager at the Monmouth Mall J.C. Penney, referred calls to the firm’s corporate headquarters.

At the Eckerd drug store on Tennent Road and Route 9, Manalapan, Rocco Letizia, store manager, said he did not know much about the situation and said he had not received any information from corporate executives.

A manager at the Eckerd drug store at School Road West and Route 79, Marlboro, referred calls to corporate offices.

As of press time, the following Eckerd drug stores in the region have been identified as stores to be closed:

• 8 South Main Street, Marlboro

• 477 Route 35, Red Bank

• 877 Main Street, Belford section of Middletown

• 570 Broad Street, Shrewsbury

• 3311 Route 9, Old Bridge

• 3574 Route 27, Kendall Park section of South Brunswick.

Other Eckerd stores throughout the state are also expected to be closed.

The chain of stores began in 1898 when J. Milton Eckerd used $600 to open his first cut-rate drug store in Erie, Pa. The store promised low prices and a high level of service which not only drew customers but was also the cause for expansion into other areas of the country with a total of more than 2,800 drug stores.

The Eckerd chain merged with J.C. Penney in 1996.

Historically, Eckerd initiated senior citizen discounts in the 1950s and two for one photo processing.