Mannequins, shelving and odd sizes dominate in Gottschalks' final days

If you've ever needed help visualizing the literal definition of the phrase "down to brass tacks," just step into one of Modesto's two Gottschalks stores.

The department stores are in the final week of their going-out-of-business sales and will close for good Sunday.

In their waning days, everything not nailed down and more than a few things that were -- including shelves, tables, mannequins and mirrors -- is for sale.

"It looks like a thrift store," said Modesto resident Colleen Lemburg, who stopped by the Century Center Gottschalks on Monday afternoon to survey what was left. "You come in and go, 'This is not right.' It's sad. This is Modesto's loss."

All of the chain's 58 department stores must cease operations by July 15 as the 105-year-old Fresno-based retailer closes its doors forever because of bankruptcy.

Stores in Merced, Fresno, Hanford and Oak-hurst shut down last week.

The liquidator manager in Modesto confirmed the stores' Sunday closing date but would not comment on any other details.

Monday, large signs blared "Last 7 Days!" and "Absolutely Everything 70 to 80 percent Off!"

The lure of big deals outside gave way to the reality of what remained inside. Both stores featured a hodgepodge of clothes, home furnishings and some unusual high-end items apparently brought in from the liquidator's other warehouses.

Ever think of buying a floor-length mink coat? Pick one up for $2,185.

Always wanted an Oriental rug for the living room? You're in luck for $959.

Dreaming of a sky-blue men's blazer in size 46 short? Take it home for $72.

"Some of it is (well priced), but we're not stupid," said Kathi Tennant, who was shopping with Lemburg at the Century Center store. "A lot of the clothes are not Gottschalks quality."

Sink into mink -- or a rug

A large selection of Oriental rugs and fur coats -- items Gottschalks did not carry before the liquidation began -- was included in the clearance sale.

A colorful variety of more regular merchandise such as blouses, pants, shoes and swimsuits remained. But a lot of what was left came in odd sizes or unusual hues.

At the Vintage Faire store, racks of plus-size jeans looked like props for the "before" photos of contestants in "The Biggest Loser" TV show. Elsewhere, a table was filled with men's sports sandals that were so big they could almost pass as miniature Boogie Boards.

"The sizes are all strange, and stuff is too small for my kids," said Lathrop resident Eleanor Van Wetter, who came to browse the Vintage Faire store with friend Donna Chisamore.

At the mall, the second and third floors sat empty except for clothing racks and other fixtures that were roped off with yellow caution tape. Shoppers who wandered upstairs looked a little lost amid the retail boneyard.

Naked mannequin busts waited in clusters to be purchased anew and clothed elsewhere.

Signs at the front of both stores advertised folding tables, microwave ovens, office chairs and other items from the soon-to-be-empty break rooms and offices.

Store employees were not supposed to comment, although the handful who were left said they were resigned to this week being their last on the job.

In front of the elevator in the Vintage Faire store, a small sign read: "What you see here today may not be here tomorrow."

After Sunday, none of it will be.

Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at or 578-2284.