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J.C. Penney to close five stores in Wisconsin

By Glen Moberg, Wisconsin Public Radio

Of the 33 J.C. Penney Stores closing nationwide, five are in Wisconsin: more than any other state in the nation. The news is hitting some communities hard.

Shoppers leaving the downtown Wausau Center Mall are having trouble accepting the news. 26-year-old Kent Hubbard says it's like losing part of his childhood. “It's quite a shock, actually. As a kid coming here to the mall, my mom would always take me to J.C. Penney's to get new school clothing, and now it's not going to be there.”

Ginger Berry makes the long drive from her farm to shop here. “We're out of town, we live over by Medford and when we come this way I always shop Penneys,” Berry says. “I guess we'll just have to go to Eau Claire or someplace else.”

83-year-old Al Jirikovec of Wausau sums up his reaction in one word. “Awful. It doesn't look good at all, not only for J.C. Penney but also for the state.”

Bad for the state, by implication, because it leads the nation in the number of stores being closed. Democratic state Rep. Mandy Wright of Wausau blames in part the economic climate created by Governor Walker's policies. “The state of Wisconsin is closing the most J.C. Penney stores of any state in the nation,” Wright says. “The policies of corporate tax breaks are not necessarily stimulating job growth.”

But Mark Hadley, the owner of Hadley Office Supplies in Wausau, disagrees. He blames the national economy and mismanagement by Penney's. He's bracing for the local impact. “That Wausau Center Mall, it's meant a heck of a lot to this community. I don't know who they're going to bring in. I sure as heck hope we don't lose any other anchor.”

JC Penney stores are also closing in Fond Du Lac, Janesville, Rhinelander and Rice Lake. A company spokesman did not address the reason why so many of the stores are closing in Wisconsin.

According to the Associated Press, only one Minnesota store will close, the Worthington Store in the Northland Mall.