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Carson's department store to close at Southlake Mall

The Carson Pirie Scott, now Carson's, at Southlake Mall in Hobart.

Carson's warned the state of Indiana it plans to close its department store in the Southlake Mall in Hobart, much to the chagrin of many Region shoppers, but there's still a chance a buyer could save the long-standing retailer.

The bankrupt retail business filed a WARN notice with the state of Indiana saying 137 workers would lose their jobs. WARN stands for Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.

"The first date of separation from employment is anticipated to be June 5, 2018," Vice President of Human Resources Gail Monreal said in a letter to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. "The closing is expected to be permanent."

There's still a chance a new owner could save the Carson's at the Southlake Mall, if a buyer purchases its Milwaukee-based parent company The Bon-Ton Stores in a court-supervised auction that will take place Monday.

“We are required to provide notification under certain state and federal laws of potential job losses even as we work diligently to complete a sale of the company as a going concern," a company spokesperson said. "Bon-Ton is in active discussions with an investor group to acquire the company in a court-supervised sale process. We are encouraged by the interest in Bon-Ton and we hope that jobs will be preserved through a sale process. We remain committed to pursuing the best path forward for the company and its stakeholders, including Bon-Ton associates.”

Carson's first opened at the 150-store, 1.3 million-square-foot Southlake Mall as Carson Pirie Scott in the 1970s. It's been one of the major anchor tenants of the super-regional enclosed mall at U.S. 30 and Mississippi Street in Hobart, along with Macy's, Sears, J.C. Penney and Dick's Sporting Goods.

A Southlake Mall spokeswoman declined to comment. 

The Bon-Ton Stores filed for bankruptcy in February and has been seeking a buyer to remain as a going concern, so a new owner could swoop in and keep the Southlake Mall store open.

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"The timetable for the closing is based on the best information available, although it is subject to change as we continue to evaluate our options, including the option of selling the business and continuing as a going concern, and subject to any actions of the bankruptcy court," Monreal wrote in the letter. "The company has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and has been engaged in efforts to reorganize the business or sell the business."

Carson's still has department stores at the Marquette Mall in Michigan City and at the former Woodmar Mall in Hammond. It shuttered its Carson's Clearance Outlet in Lansing last year, and its location at the River Oaks Center in Calumet City in 2013.

Hammond owns the two-story department store Carson's leases at the site of the former Woodmar Mall, where the city is developing a youth sports complex. Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said Carson's has a very favorable lease and was looking to renegotiate for even better terms after filing for bankruptcy.

"They get it really cheap," McDermott said. "We love to have Carson's in Hammond. If it's one of the few left, that should bring even more business to the city. People are still very loyal to that brand and will come from farther (away)."

McDermott said he would like the city to help the store move to a smaller big box location where it could possibly focus more on athletic gear to cater to the thousands of visitors expected to flock to the neighboring Sportsplex.

"In the current setup, they're in the middle of a parking lot," he said. "That building is too large. We would love a long-term deal to help them remain in Hammond." 

Carson's is one of many brick-and-mortar stores in the Region to shutter as more shoppers migrate online, including Sports Authority, MC Sports, Sears, Kmart, HH Gregg and Ashley Homestore.

Check nwi.com for updates.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.