The Bon-Ton Stores filed for bankruptcy late Sunday, raising questions about the future of its Carson's department stores in Hammond, Hobart and Michigan City.

The Milwaukee-based retailer secured $725 million in financing to support its operations in the meantime, and is looking for a buyer as it restructures operations through the Chapter 11 process. The company, which operates stores at the former Woodmar Mall in Hammond, at Southlake Mall in Hobart, and at Marquette Mall in Michigan City, said it may sell all or parts of itself as it reorganizes in bankruptcy court.

“We are currently engaged in discussions with potential investors and our debtholders on a financial restructuring plan, and the actions we are taking are intended to give us additional time and financial flexibility to evaluate options for our business," President and CEO Bill Tracy said.

Bon-Ton operates 256 stores. In addition to Carson's, they include Bon-Ton, Bergner's, Boston Store, Elder-Beerman, Herberger’s and Younkers brands in the Midwest, Great Plains and Northeast.

"BonTon has seven well-loved brands and associates who have remained committed to delivering excellent service to our customers for decades," Tracy said. "During this court-supervised process, we plan to continue operating in the normal course and executing on our key initiatives to drive improved performance.”

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Bon-Ton is closing 47 of its least competitive stores this year, including five in downstate Indiana. 

“We appreciate the ongoing dedication of our associates, whose hard work in serving our loyal customers is critical to our success and the future of our company," Tracy said. "Importantly, we look forward to continuing to provide our customers with quality merchandise and an exceptional shopping experience in our stores and across e-commerce and mobile platforms as we move through this financial restructuring process.”

Bon-Ton is asking the court to allow it to retain the authority to pay employee wages and benefits, and to pay vendors.

"The company expects to receive bankruptcy court approval for these requests," Bon-Ton said in a news release.


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.