Sears closes in Steamboat, relocates business to Laramie, Wyoming
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A paper sign taped to the window of the Sears Hometown Store in Central Park Plaza marks the end of the road for the business’ 46-year-run in Steamboat Springs.
“When we had it, we sold everything from underwear to baby chicks to furniture,” said Pat Feeley, who owned Sears with her husband, Ron, from 1979 to 1992. “You could get anything from clothing to appliances — anything you can think of.”
Feeley said the store opened in 1975 and was originally owned by Bob and Alona Berkstresser. It was located in the Old West Building at 1106 Lincoln Ave. The couple operated the store until 1979 when they sold it to the Feeleys.
“It was wonderful for us, and anybody that would be in that position, because when we came to town, we didn’t know very many people … and we met everybody,” Feeley said. “It was wonderful to meet the people who lived in town and all the ranchers, and they were all such great people.”
Feeley said the store, which they later moved across the street to 1103 Lincoln Ave., sold just about everything Sears offered in its larger stores, and if customers wanted something that wasn’t available in Steamboat, they could order it from a catalog and have it shipped to the local store.
“We had the whole realm of things,” Feeley said. “We were not just relying on appliances or those kinds of things; it was everything.”
In 1992, the Feeleys sold the store to Butch and Pamela Loveland, who ran the business for several years. It was during this time that Sears discontinued its catalog, which was a big part of the business for the Steamboat store. Sears agreed to make the store a Sears Hometown Store, which would allow it to continue selling appliances and other nonclothing items, but as part of the deal, the Lovelands had to move to a larger location.
That’s when the store was sold to Thaine and Lisa Mahanna, who moved the store to Shield Drive. It was located there until 2010 when it was moved to Riverside Plaza. It was then sold to Jim Hansen, who operated the store for more than 10 years.
“I did everything in my power to keep it open, but it just got to the point of diminishing returns,” Hansen said. “That’s when I did not renew my franchise, and the reason behind it was the free delivery that Lowe’s was offering out of Silverthorne and the free delivery that Costco was offering out of Eagle, so the volume was down. It was also very difficult to find consistent employees, and Sears Hometown continued to kind of pinch the commissions.”
In 2019, after Hansen didn’t renew his franchise, Sears took over operations of the Steamboat location. Hansen said he was not surprised last week when the store was cleared, the sign was taken down and a note on the window informed customers the store was relocating two hours away in Laramie, Wyoming.
“I miss it, and I really enjoyed running the store when it was profitable,” Hansen said.
Steamboat Springs Chamber CEO Kara Stoller said the closing of the Sears store is another reminder of why it’s important to shop locally.
“It’s always hard to see a business close,” Stoller said. “I would say that this is an example of the challenges that are in play for retail store owners.
“The competition — the online shopping competition and price competition — is incredibly challenging,” she said. “It’s a big reason why we try to push shopping local as much as possible and ask residents to continue to support our friends and our neighbors and their business ventures.”
John F. Russell is the business reporter at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach him, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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