SIOUX CITY -- At 5 p.m. Wednesday, a longtime Sioux City department store closed its doors for the final time.
Younkers, which has had a presence at various locations in Sioux City since 1947, has ceased operations at the Southern Hills Mall, a store manager said. Terms of the liquidation of Younkers' parent company, Bon-Ton Inc., prevented her from speaking further on the matter.
Bon-Ton, which also owns Herberger's, Boston, Carson's, Elder-Beerman and Bergner's stores, was forced to liquidate its holdings after the company failed to find a buyer that was interested in continuing to run the stores. In Sioux City, more than 80 people have lost their jobs as a result of Younkers' closure, while Bon-Ton as a whole employed more than 20,000 people across 24 states.
The collapse of Bon-Ton and the end of Younkers comes amid a massive downturn in traditional department stores and malls. Analysts are predicting 20-25 of American malls to close in the next five years, fueled by the rise of e-commerce and by department stores' ongoing slump.
It also leaves a massive, empty cavern in the Southern Hills Mall, where Younkers has been an anchor since 1980. Washington Prime Group, the mall's owner, said in May that they were already exploring options for the Younkers space.
The CEO of Washington Prime, Lou Conforti, said in an email at the time that the demise of Bon-Ton did not come as a surprise to the investment group.
“The liquidation of Bon-Ton Stores was expected and we planned for it," Conforti said.
Younkers, founded in Keokuk, Iowa in 1856, had been a presence in Sioux City for 71 years, beginning with its purchase of the Davidson Brothers department store. Davidson had been a titan of downtown retail since the 1880s.
A decade after they purchased Davidson Brothers, Younkers purchased the T.S. Martin & Co. department store. Younker-Martin and Younker-Davidson's operated only a block apart for more than a decade, until the demolition of the Martin building in 1969.
Upon the opening of the Southern Hills Mall location 11 years later, Younkers once again operated two stores in Sioux City -- until the closure of their final downtown location in 2007.