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Business Pulse - Goody's, JC Penney face bankruptcy
Goody's - sign.jpg
Goody's employee Christina Locke makes adjustments to sale prices for a sign hanging in the store. Goody's reopened on Friday but its parent company, Stage Stores, has filed for bankruptcy.

A storm cloud of bankruptcy looms over our beloved Three Star Mall with two of its biggest anchors filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in a five-day span.

Stage Stores, which operates more than 700 stores under a half dozen brands, filed for bankruptcy last Sunday. Stage Stores operates Goody’s, Peebles and Gordmans among its brands and had previously announced plans to change our Goody’s into a Gordmans.

That transition was supposed to have already occurred, but was delayed when COVID-19 forced retailers across the nation to close. Now the changeover might not take place at all as Stage Stores began liquidation sales at 550 of its locations on Friday.

Stage Stores, a Houston-based company, says it is looking for a buyer, but this isn’t exactly the market that lends itself to prospects. Anybody want to buy a struggling retailer? Not me.

JC Penney is in the same proverbial boat, that being a boat that’s sinking to the bottom of a large lake. 

The 118-year-old department store, and one of my favorite places to buy clothes, announced Friday it has been pushed into Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

JC Penney says it will be shuttering even more of its stores as part of this process with more details to be released in the coming weeks.

The struggles of Goody’s and JC Penney are a snapshot of how American shopping trends are changing. We’ve long been doing more of our shopping online, that’s not breaking news, and the COVID-19 pandemic only intensified that shift, especially with retail chains being forced to close.

The much larger picture is that we may soon be forced to do all of our shopping either: 1) online, 2) at Walmart, or 3) at Dollar General because there won’t be any other place left to shop.

Iconic chains like Sears have been reduced to breadcrumbs and it appears JC Penney and Goody’s aren’t far behind. 

It also begs the question about what might replace those stores should they close their doors at Three Star Mall. Nothing comes to mind. I’m not generating a mental image here.

To add to fuel to this unpleasant tone, real estate research firm Green Street Advisors predicted in a report last month that more than 50% of all mall-based department stores will close by the end of 2021. It expects J.C. Penney will eventually liquidate its business, noting that a smaller company won’t solve its main problems.

All of this is not meant to bury the positive news beneath an avalanche of sorrow. The good news is our Goody’s did reopen on Friday and customers swarmed through the door.

Zayne and Addy J. Willett enjoyed checking out the toy selection, while on the other side of the store Billie Jo Hobbs perused the household items. Store employee Christina Locke worked to adjust a sign to indicate store savings between 20% and 50%.

Store hours for Goody’s are Monday thru Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Our JC Penney store remains closed.

Textbook store

Opens new chapter

In Warren County, so many of our eggs are in the automotive basket it’s nice when we can diversify our economy just a bit.

Walrus Book Company has opened on Sparta Highway in the building formerly occupied by Wilson Cutting Systems. Brent and Carolyn Rust are the owners of this used textbook business and they are in the process of relocating from Mt. Juliet. 

Brent and Carolyn are scheduled to close on a house in this area in June.

Brent said the move has already been a stroke of good fortune. Their former warehouse in Mt. Juliet had the roof ripped off by a tornado earlier this year.

“We’d only been out about a month,” said Brent. “It would have been devastating because these books are worthless if they get wet.”

With the move, Walrus Book Company now has 16,000 square feet, more than twice its former size, and the space is filling up quickly. Brent says the company has landed a contract with Rutherford County that includes more than 50 schools.

“The physical labor is probably the toughest part of the job,” said Brent. “When we start going up to Rutherford County, we’ll collect 10 pallets of books from one school. That’s a lot of lifting.”

Brent says Walrus Book Company also works with schools in Robertson, Williamson and Wilson counties in Middle Tennessee, along with school systems in East Tennessee, West Tennessee and Alabama.

Once Brent gets the used textbooks, he resells them all over the United States. Having a presence on Amazon is a huge plus. However, a large portion of the books are recycled.

“I may get 3,000 copies of the same book and might only keep 300 of those copies,” said Brent. “We recycle the rest. Probably 90 percent of our sales are to individuals.”

Marc Francois is one of the Walrus Book employees. Marc has an interesting story in that he’s originally from Haiti where he co-owns an orphanage. He’s been in Warren County about 18 months.

Marc was busy Friday morning packaging textbooks for mailing. It didn’t take long before he had a stack of about 20 books ready to send.

I must admit, I’m not terribly familiar with the used textbook business. Brent told me June, July, August and September are the busy months. He said it’s like any other business in that you want to buy products for a low price and resell them for slightly higher.

As for when the need for textbooks might disappear, Brent said he thinks the college level with adopt an all-digital format before K-12 education.

“With college, I could see it happening in the next five to 10 years,” said Brent. “But who knows how things may change. The coronavirus showed how colleges could pack up courses and hold everything online so that may speed things up.”

The editors of Business Pulse are pleased to welcome Walrus Book Company to our community. It’s doubtful the business will ever have a large workforce, but it’s contributing to our economy and certainly helping our local post office with all the packages it’s sending around the country. 

If you’re interested in buying a textbook from Walrus Books, the company can be found on Amazon.

Roscoe Brown

Has a winner

To celebrate 80 years in business, Roscoe Brown held a contest to give away a central heat and air unit. The contest was held over the entire Roscoe Brown coverage area and had over 1,500 entries.

When the dust settled, local resident Phillip Hobbs had his name selected in a random drawing to be declared the contest winner. Phillip and his wife Denny live in the Irving College community.

“I never enter sweepstakes because I figure there’s no chance that I’ll win,” said Phillip. “But I saw this in the newspaper and I decided to enter. The next thing I know, I get an email that has a video attached. They’re turning around a big barrel and someone sticks their hand in there and pulls out my name. It was pretty neat to watch.”

Phillips says it’s a bit ironic that he won a Carrier heat and air unit after just retiring in January from Carrier after more than 43 years of employment.

“Several of my friends have told me it must have been rigged but I know they’re kidding me in good fun,” said Phillip.

His Carrier career began on Sept. 7, 1976 when he went to work for our local plant in Morrison. He worked there until the very end, even helping during the difficult time of transferring some of the product line to Mexico.

Phillip said he was fortunate to be offered a job with the Carrier plant in Charlotte, N.C., and he spent the past 15 or so years traveling there to work every other week.

The new Carrier unit will be installed at his home on Safley Hollow Road, not far from where a one-room schoolhouse used to stand. John Safley was the school teacher.

As for Roscoe Brown, the business specializes in heating, cooling, plumbing, insulation and more. It’s a third-generation company that’s currently run by Norman Brown, the grandson of Roscoe Brown. 

Roscoe Brown has over 200 employees and has been in Warren County since 2016 when it purchased Bob’s Central Air. It’s currently located at 4127 Manchester Highway and can be reached at 473-8234.

That’s all folks

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