The Sears store at Washington Crown Center is closing.

Lisa Eger, the store’s manager, confirmed Friday that it will be closing in December. The store is one of hundreds that have been shuttered across the country in recent years as the once unassailable retail giant has struggled.

A statement from Sears’ corporate office in Chicago stated, “After careful review, we have made the difficult but necessary decision to close the Sears store in Washington, Pa. A liquidation sale is expected to begin in mid-September and the store is planned to close by mid-December.”

Earlier in August, Sears announced that 21 stores would be closing, along with a handful of Kmart stores, which are also owned by Sears Holdings, though the store in North Franklin Township was not on that list. The Sears store at Crown Center was one of the last two remaining in the Pittsburgh region, the other being at Westmoreland Mall in Hemfield Township. An outlet store remains in Collier Township.

Eger said shutting down Sears, and its adjoining automotive center, was “a sad day” for associates and customers at the store.

“There are a lot of people who love Sears and want to see it succeed,” she said.

The first indication that the Sears store was going to close came on Thursday, when officials in North Franklin Township received an email message from a lawyer with Sears saying that the store was closing and asking if the company needed to apply for a permit to conduct a “store closing” sale.

Sears’ departure from Crown Center was perhaps inevitable, given the company’s long-running decline and much-publicized woes as it has strained to compete with online retailers and big-box stores like Walmart. But the end of Sears at Crown Center is another blow to the mall, which in recent years has also seen other anchor stores decamp, including Macy’s, Bon-Ton and Gander Mountain.

Sears’ leaving Crown Center has troubling implications for North Franklin Township, according to Bob Sabot, a township supervisor.

“The mall is in serious trouble,” he said. Sabot also said he and his fellow supervisors would like to meet with the owners of the mall to discuss its future.

“We need some direction,” he explained. “We are struggling with our tax base.”

As she was walking into the store Friday afternoon, Washington resident Lori Campbell said she was disappointed to hear that Sears’ days were numbered.

“I’m sorry to see it go,” she said. “Everything is leaving.”

In 2012, there were 4,000 Sears and Kmart stores across the country. Now, there are fewer than 500. Sears opened its store at Crown Center in 1969, when it was known as Franklin Mall. It is the only original anchor store that remains.

Staff Writer

Brad Hundt came to the Observer-Reporter in 1998 after stints at newspapers in Georgia and Michigan. He serves as editorial page editor, and has covered the arts and entertainment and worked as a municipal beat reporter.

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