After more than six decades, Region residents will no longer be able to head to Carson's, formerly Carson Pirie Scott, to buy gifts for Christmas or a baby shower, to get luggage for an upcoming trip or to try out a new fragrance.
After four months of liquidation sales depleted the remaining inventory on the shelves, and even the fixtures were sold off, the Carson's department stores in Southlake Mall in Hobart, the Marquette Mall in Michigan City and in Hammond will all close forever Wednesday, employees said.
Carson's has been a popular shopping destination in Northwest Indiana since at least 1954, when it opened at the since-demolished Woodmar Mall in Hammond. The three-story department store is all that remains of the enclosed mall at Indianapolis Boulevard and 165th Street that many people still fondly remember.
"We absolutely loved Carson's at Woodmar," Hammond native Margaret Kullerstrand said. "One of our favorite things when the children were little was going there for Sunday brunch. The boys could eat sausage to their heart's content."
Generations of Region residents have shopped at, dined at or worked for Carson's, which once had 50 department stores across the Midwest but lost ground in an era of online commerce and discount big-box stores.
"My mom worked at Carson's in Merrillville for 33 years and retired from there in 2009," Janel Bridges, of Valparaiso, said. "She started working in the dress department and then moved to men's fragrances. I know she will always cherish the memories of working there and the friendships with her coworkers. Carson's was a big part of our lives and it will be sadly missed."
Carson's parent company The Bon Ton Stores, which operated more than 260 department stores under several banners nationwide, filed for bankruptcy in February and ended up selling its assets to liquidators in April after a bid to save the company failed.
"It’s going to be a sad day when Carson's closes their doors for good," Linda Scheffer, of rural Hebron, said. "I was 7 when the mall opened, and we lived nearby. My mother had muscular dystrophy and the mall was her haven of mobility, especially in the winter. We shopped at Carson’s from the beginning, when they had a restaurant in the store."
Her family often bought swimwear, school clothes and prom dresses there.
"Tradition continued through the birth of her grandchildren — the baby department was now a destination," Scheffer said. "When I lost my mother in October 2015, it was Carson’s I went to feel her presence. I broke down one afternoon in the purse department shortly after she passed. A saleswoman walked up and just held me as I cried. My sister and I joke that the closing of Carson’s had to have something to do with my mom no longer shopping there after she passed. It’s a lifetime of memories. Sweet memories."
Some Region residents feel a strong connection with the brand.
"Walking into Carson was like visiting family — pleasant, familiar and always a warm welcome like you belong," Merrillville resident Marina Tabor said. "There will never be a place like it anymore. Nowadays it’s all about big profits and cheap clothes."
Versie C. Chatman remembers walking into the store and being met by women at the makeup counter, who were "over-the-top professional."
"You could sit at the seat of the counter, and you got the royal treatment," she said. "The sales reps would always try to get you to try a makeover or perfume. They were never pushy. They were polished and professional. Of course, if you sat at this gorgeous semi-private counter they would make you look like a million bucks."
She loved elevator rides to different departments and the quality of clothes that "lasted a lifetime," or at least for decades.
"Oooh and those Carson’s bags people toted around after a purchase," Chatman said. "That was a staple too. They were an icon. Carson's was a giant among giants. They were original. The stores were clean and polished. Oh my God, their window displays... You paid, but you looked good. The perfume counters were a staple and just so nice. Not like going into these stores with all these open boxes of perfumes... It truly was an icon. But suffice it to say, people are getting cheaper and want quantity over quality."
Hobart resident Chuck Snitchler especially misses the Carson Pirie Scott Garden Restaurant, Honey Bear Farm outlet store and the candy counter from the 1970s and 1980s at the Southlake Mall location.
"I bought a 32" inch Samsung TV there when I was 19 for $700 marked down from $1,000 when they were closing down their electronics department," he said. "That TV lasted 25 years. I also remember the three-dimensional fabric Chinese castle that was hung on the wall above the escalator. My mom loved their perfume counter. While it hasn't been the same store we fondly remember from the '70s and '80s, it will be sad to see Carson Pirie Scott close and all the employees losing their jobs."
Bon Ton filed notice with the state that 137 employees would lose their jobs at the Southlake Mall store. Scores more will be out of work at the Hammond and Michigan City locations when they close for good Wednesday.
Region shoppers said they'll miss the high-quality merchandise, colognes and perfumes, the Christmas decorations they rolled out during the holiday season and the experience of shopping there for Easter dresses for their daughters.
"My very first card was from Carson's, and at the time I redid my daughter's room with their old-fashioned Winnie the Pooh collection," East Chicago resident Rosie Krespo said. "She loved it. Thank you Carson's, for those memories."