Gottschalks' demise marks end of an era

The going-out-of-business sales could begin as early as today at Gottschalks stores throughout the valley, including the two in Modesto and one in Sonora.

Those sales might be good news for bargain hunters, but not for anyone else — employees, customers, neighboring businesses or the community as a whole.

The troubled Fresno- based retailer's sale to a group of liquidators was officially approved Wednesday by a bankruptcy judge in Delaware.

The store closures will take out anchor tenants at two Modesto shopping centers, Vintage Faire Mall and Century Center. For residents of east Modesto, the loss of Gottschalks means they'll be traveling much farther to find a good selection of clothes, linens, cookware and more.

Vintage Faire and Century Center owners will obviously be looking for replacements, and the mall owners indicated they may have some prospects.

We hope both centers will be able to find solid replacements as quickly as possible.

Modesto has lost other big retailers in this recession — Mervyns, Circuit City, Linens 'n Things and more. Others may disappear as well.

But Gottschalks is significant both for its size and its longtime presence. The first Modesto store debuted in 1977 with the opening of Vintage Faire.

Although Gottschalks was not based in Modesto, it was a comfortable, midpriced store that seemed to reflect valley values. It was a newer, larger version of Dunlap's Department Store, which was a key anchor of McHenry Village for years until its closure in 1985.

Gottschalks' demise is the result of the bad economy, shifting customer preferences and some questionable moves by the company.

We're sad to see Gottschalks go.