Gottschalks Goes to the Auction Block

March 30, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Fresno-based Gottschalks is going on the auction block Monday and the retailer's uncertain future is causing anxiety all over the Valley.Gottschalks filed for bankruptcy protection in January. Two of the three bidders in Monday's auction are liquidators and only one has a plan to keep any of the stores open.

Gottschalks is one of the anchor stores here at Manchester mall as well as malls from Visalia to Merced. If it goes out of business it could cause a ripple effect of trouble for neighboring businesses. That's why so many are watching Monday's auction so closely.

When shoppers in Oakhurst are looking for clothes many say they shop at the nearby Gottschalks for quality and good deals.

"As far as getting larger quantities with better prices, this is our best place," said Cheryl Doty of Oakhurst.

"There's no competition. This is the only department store in town," said Charlotte Maguire.

But Gottschalks could close.

A sluggish economy has dramatically reduced all 58 west coast store's profits forcing the chain into bankruptcy court. Gottschalks owners will watch today as two liquidating firms and one Chinese government run company bid on its future.

The Chinese commercial group Shandong could keep the store alive.

Oakhurst bookstore owner Monica McClanahan worries if Gottschalks closes her bookstore would be in jeopardy. "When I opened the store it was 50 miles to another bookstore," said McClanahan, "That will be a huge blow. It really will to the whole community and to all of eastern Madera County."

Next door sporting goods owner Greg Miller predicts the local economic landscape will shift negatively. "Of course it's scary. This is my livelihood right here."

Many of the shoppers we spoke to said they would be forced to travel to Fresno which is tough on already tight budgets. "that's an hour each way, the gas money, plus you kill the whole day!" said Maguire.

The auction starts at 7am our time in Delaware, but Gottschalk's fate will not be known until Wednesday when a judge will approve the bid placed at Monday's auction.

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