Bon-Ton proclaims comeback

Store chain’s new owner may reopen some locations

LEWISTOWN — Visitors to Bon-Ton’s website may be left feeling confused and elated at the announcement declaring, “We’ve got great news, Bon-Ton is coming back!”

Telling shoppers to stay tuned for updates over the coming weeks, residents are pondering if the Lewistown store will be reopened after shutting its doors last month.

“It would be a tremendous boost to our community to have our local Bon-Ton reopen,” said Rhonda Moore, executive director of the Juniata River Valley Chamber of Commerce. “We are currently facing a shortage of retail options and our residents are being forced to travel out of town or look online for many of their retail needs.”

According to USA Today, Indiana-based tech company CSC Generation Holdings has signed a $900,000 deal giving it rights to Bon-Ton and its subsidiary department store chains and the bankrupt retailer’s trademarks, websites, customer lists and other data. The retailer filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this year after failing to make a profit since 2010. A Delaware Bankruptcy Court has yet to approve the agreement.

The company also told USA Today that the new Bon-Ton will emphasize its online shopping and may also open stores in Wisconsin, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana and Pennsylvania.

Until the locations are named, Moore said it would be wonderful to see the Lewistown store reopen, not only for the previous Bon-Ton sales team to be back at work, doing what they love, but to ease the concerns of lost tax income for Lewistown Borough, who depends on those dollars to stay on budget.

“It would also have a positive impact on our economy,” Moore said. “With sales topping $4.2 million in 2017, our local Bon-Ton kept dollars in Mifflin County. When residents are forced to seek retail out of town or online, those dollars leave the area.”

As the Lewistown building, which opened its doors on Nov. 6, 1969, is set to be sold at auction on Sept. 20 by A&G Realty Partners, the future of the building is unknown, especially if the retailer were to reopen.

Jim Zubler, executive director of Downtown Lewistown Inc., confirmed with A&G Realty Partners that only prequalified bidders could submit a bid by Sept. 18 for the auction. If more than one bidder places a bid, the building will go to auction on Sept. 20. Zubler said the realty company could act as a broker for CSC Generation Holdings if needed.

Moore and Zubler, who both are serving on the task force to bring in another retailer to the former Bon-Ton building, have been working hard to help influence the situation and have sent out information packets to 14 possible retailers.

Moore said bringing a retailer back to the downtown location is important because it served the more mature residents who are not as likely to travel or are not tech savvy and with the closing, has been a hardship.

“It is definitely a quality of life issue,” she said. “When trying to attract new residents and retaining the ones we have, amenities such as a major retailer are extremely important. Our community has seen a major swing in the right direction with the addition of coffee shops, artisan studios, restaurants, hotel, and many local industries expanding and hiring. This would be just one more positive giant step in the right direction. It would also reinforce to our residents that others see what we do; that this is a wonderful place to live, work, play and retire.”