Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Bankrupt Bon-Ton Stores may be revived

Website, source point to revival after liquidatio­n

- Karen Pilarski, Tom Daykin and Charisse Jones

Bon-Ton Stores Inc., the more than century-old department store chain that declared bankruptcy in February and shut its doors Wednesday, may be close to a comeback.

The rights to relaunch the retailer and its subsidiary brands are close to being acquired, according to people familiar with the matter who requested anonymity because the deal is not yet final.

The reinvented Bon-Ton would be a sleeker, more e-commerce focused business, the sources told USA TODAY. While the relaunched company will be centered around its website, there are also plans to reopen physical locations in Illinois, Colorado, Wisconsin and Pennsylvan­ia.

Services like personal styling will be offered, and stores will be open for a shorter time most weekdays and for extended hours from Thursday to Sunday. Former Bon-Ton employees would get first dibs on re-staffing those locations.

If given the green light by the bankruptcy court, Bon-Ton, and the retail

chains under its corporate umbrella — Boston Store, Carson’s, Bergner’s, Elder-Beerman, Younkers, and Herberger’s — would be revived about seven months after Bon-Ton filed for bankruptcy protection.

Someone operating Bon-Ton’s websites created online speculatio­n Friday with messages saying the stores will return.

The Boston Store website states, “We’ve got great news — Boston Store is coming back!”

The site adds, “Stay tuned for updates over the coming weeks. We appreciate your loyalty & look forward to being able to serve you again soon.”

A representa­tive for Bon-Ton couldn’t be reached for comment.

It is unclear who is operating all the websites, which remain registered to Bon-Ton Stores Inc., through

Scott Carpenter, president of retail solutions for Great American Group, which is leading the liquidatio­n of Bon-Ton’s assets, issued the following statement by email Friday: “All of Bon-Ton Stores’ physical store locations will be closed as of today. The company’s intellectu­al property is in the process of being sold. We cannot speak to the purchaser’s future plans with the company. All inquiries should be referred to the buyer which will be disclosed once the transactio­n is closed.”

Of course, there is a monumental gap between having the wherewitha­l to operate websites and having the resources to lease or own brick-and-mortar retail stores, much less to stock them with merchandis­e to sell.

Bon-Ton filed for bankruptcy Feb. 4 and was unable to find an investor willing to keep the company going. As a result, it was purchased in an April bankruptcy auction by a group of liquidator­s and some Bon-Ton creditors.

The closure of Boston Store left massive holes — at least temporaril­y — in five Milwaukee-area malls: Bayshore, Brookfield Square, Mayfair, Southridge and the Grand Avenue.

Meanwhile, a Chicago attorney representi­ng Kohl’s Department Stores Inc. on Thursday filed a notice of appearance in the Bon-Ton bankruptcy case.

Representa­tives at Kohl’s couldn’t be reached for more informatio­n about why the Menomonee Fallsbased retailer has an interest in the bankruptcy case.

Other bankruptcy court filings show various former Bon-Ton stores throughout the country being taken over by other retailers.

The Journal Sentinel has reported that Dillard’s Inc., a Little Rock, Ark.-based department store chain, is considerin­g opening stores at recently closed Boston Store buildings at Brookfield Square, Mayfair and Southridge Mall, according to sources familiar with those discussion­s.

Also, department store chain Von Maur is evaluating former Bon-Ton sites as possible locations for expansion, an executive at the Davenport, Iowabased chain told the Journal Sentinel this month.

 ?? SCREEN GRAB ?? Boston Store's website on Friday was displaying a message suggesting the bankrupt store has comeback plans.
SCREEN GRAB Boston Store's website on Friday was displaying a message suggesting the bankrupt store has comeback plans.

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