Gottschalks Workers Face Uncertain Future

March 31, 2009 11:36:15 PM PDT
Gottschalks, a 61 store retail chain headquartered in Fresno made it official on Tuesday. The bankrupt company is finished and has been sold to liquidators, who are expected to begin "going out of business" sales within days.                  |   Watch Video Above for Extended Coverage   |

The 107 year old company operates 61 stores in 6 western states. It has more than five thousand employees. More than two thousand of those work in stores and corporate offices in the Fresno area. Corporate employees received notice on Tuesday that Friday will be their last day on the job. Doris Walker is an administrator and has been with the company for 27 years. She and other workers were hauling their personal property out of the corporate headquarters on Tuesday afternoon.

"It's very devastating. I mean one day you think everything is gonna be ok, and then the next morning you to work and it's all over. Your whole career is over and you don't know what you're going to do next." She said.

There are no other big retailers with corporate offices in the Central Valley. So, workers at Fresno's corporate offices are worried about other jobs. Leticia Sharer has worked for Gottschalks for 30 years. Doing everything from gift-wrapping to administrative work. She's worried about getting into a different line of work. "Putting those retail skills into another part of the working life, it's gonna be different." She said.

Gottschalks Sr. Vice President, Scott Manson is appealing to other employers to be open minded and realize retail skills can apply to other businesses. "Gottschalk's, people who work at this corporate office have an outstanding talent and it's not just a talent that revolves around retail."He said.

While the possible shutdown of Gottschalks has been known for weeks, there was hope a Chinese company would rescue the firm at the last minute. But that failed to happen. Fresno's Mayor Ashley Swearengin notes it's a sudden and devastating blow to the local economy. "I guess it's a sign of the times but it's heartbreaking, nonetheless, and frankly we're just a little stunned by it all. But we've got to quickly get back to work and focus on helping people find jobs who are going to be working with some of our local partners to do that." Swearengin said.

But everyone knows with the economy the way it is, finding thousands of jobs is not going to be easy. Those leaving know good employers like Gottschalks are even harder to find. Jack Taylor has been a buyer at Gottschalks for 32 years. "I couldn't have asked for a better career and fortunately I'm at the end of my career but my colleagues aren't and they have to go on, so it's just devastating." Taylor said.

While employees in the corporate office will be out of work on Friday, some store employees will be kept on by the liquidators to conduct the "going out of business" sales.

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