OSWEGO — Officials for the Oswego J.C. Penney location say it has been removed from a list of stores slated for imminent closure.
The axe appeared ready to fall on more than 150 of the retailer’s outlets after J.C. Penney filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May. On June 4, Oswego was announced as one of the unlucky stores.
Local J.C. Penney officials say mere days later — thanks to public outcry and a reasonable landlord — the company changed its mind.
“I firmly believe a lot of it was the customers,” Carol Peters, general manager of the Oswego J.C. Penney, told The Palladium-Times Monday morning. “There were a lot of phone calls, a lot of prayers and a lot of support.”
The Oswego store, located in the Oswego Plaza on state Route 104, had been shuttered since March due to state coronavirus quarantine measures, but unlocked its doors on June 12 as New York entered Phase 2 of re-opening. Peters said her staff began the day “as if we were going to liquidate.”
“That morning, we were told to hold off, then a couple days later, we were told it was ‘pending approval’,” Peters said. Last Friday, June 19, word came: they were staying open.
“We are so grateful for the support and to be part of such a great community. We look forward to continuing to serve our customers,” Peters said
It was a tense two weeks between the original bad news and the reprieve for the staff and management of the Oswego J.C. Penney, which the company says number around 40 with six to eight full-time jobs.
“I am incredibly grateful to our talented associates for their ongoing dedication and their passion for meeting and exceeding our customers’ expectations during this difficult and uncertain time,” said J.C. Penney CEO Jill Soltau at the time.
Customer expectations and passion came through — signs and memorial-style displays were placed near the front entrance of the store. Social media was filled with Oswego County residents sharing memories and their shock at the news the location would be contracted.
Michael Wachs owns the Oswego Plaza and, reached via telephone at his home in Philadelphia, said he worked with J.C. Penney corporate to negotiate new terms of its rental agreement.
“This is a great moment for Oswego and I’m delighted to have played a small part,” Wachs said. “All the credit goes to Carol and her team, this community, and the company for seeing the merit of maintaining this store. Hopefully it will continue for years and years to come.”
Store hours remain Monday through Saturday, noon to 7 p.m. and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays. On Wednesdays and Fridays, the store is reserved for one hour from 11 a.m. to noon for shoppers with underlying health conditions or otherwise compromised immune systems.