Ex-Gottschalks Employees Move On

June 23, 2009 8:17:17 PM PDT
Sunday the Gottschalks store at Fresno's Manchester Center will shut down for good. Other Valley stores will close by the end of July.Former corporate employees are helping each through a very difficult time. The corporate office shut down in April, leaving 250 employees out of work. Some have found new jobs but most are relying on a support group they formed to ease the transition.

Liquidation sale signs may draw shoppers looking for deals but it's tough for laid-off Gottschalks' employees to go into these stores. Former Housewares Coordinator Ron Steele said, "I didn't really want to go look at the stores but there are a lot of people I wanted to see. Of the 61 stores i had been in 58 stores."

Former Corporate Vice-President Darlene Takanishi added, "It's kind of like, 'it was our company.' To see this and then to think, wow in a few weeks it's all going to be gone. It's hard."

Takanishi helped organize the support group for former Gottschalks' workers. While they worked in different departments they all shared the same pain, having been laid off from the corporate office April 3rd.

Takanishi, who worked 32 years with the company, said "We didn't want anybody walking out of that building thinking they're all alone."

Carla Beckwith worked 30 years with Gottschalks. She said, "If we would have walked out the door on the last day and not had any contact at all a lot of us would have spiraled into some depression."

For many it's been good therapy. They meet regularly to share advice on everything from unemployment to healthcare. Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin and local employment agencies have met with the group.

Bill Levine, a 22-year veteran with the company, said, "Of course you're looking for yourself but you're looking for your brothers at Gottschalks, your sisters that were there so we share that information."

Takanishi estimates 15-percent of the corporate office employees have found new jobs. Deborah Loyd is another long-time employee, having worked at Gottschalks for 30 years. She said, "It's been very helpful listening to my co-workers who have already been in the search so that I'm a little more prepared for the ups and downs, the roller-coaster ride of the job search."

Sixty people showed for their last meeting. The number has steadily decreased, which they see as a good sign as colleagues move on to other jobs.

More Gottschalk's layoffs will come as retail stores close. The Manchester Center store closes Sunday. Other Valley stores are expected to shut down around mid-July.

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