Gottschalks set to open new shop on Wednesday

Posted: Tuesday, September 30, 2003

The size, location and even the amount of merchandise all will change, but the name will remain the same.

When the ribbon is cut Wednesday morning, the Kenai Peninsula will be the home of a larger, brand-spanking-new Gottschalks store. Company officials said they are happy to be able to expand on the services they offer to their peninsula customers.

"We're excited to be able to improve our store here," said Gottschalks board of directors chair, Joe Levy. "The store we had here was the smallest of our six Alaska stores."

Wednesday morning at 9:30, Levy and a handful of Gott-schalks officials and staffers will host a grand opening celebration, complete with free breakfast for all in attendance, as the Kenai Spur Highway Gott-schalks store gives way to a Peninsula Center Mall location with twice the size.

The larger retail space, about 47,000 square feet, will create a more shopper-friendly environment that customers perusing the few remnants at the first store on Monday said they were looking forward to.

"It won't be so crowded between the racks," said Kris Eriksen of Kenai. "Especially in the winter. When you have on big coats, it's hard to move between the aisles."

"I think it's great!" said Sherry Morris of Soldotna. "They're going to open up a shoe department."

Along with a more open-floor plan, the new store will feature new merchandise not previously offered, as well as expanded departments.

"We will have shoes, juniors and young men's departments," said Mic Clark, a Gottschalks regional manager assisting with the new store's grand opening.

Although the selection of merchandise in the original building has diminished gradually as more of the new store came on line, shoppers said they were pleased they still had a place to shop while the store moved.

"The transition has been great," Morris said. "I'm really im-pressed."

Clark said the store will add 10 employees to its staff. Store manager Linda Newland said the new building's amenities have been eagerly anticipated.

"Everybody here is ecstatic that we're getting the space, new fixtures, additional merchandise and air conditioning," she said. "We feel uptown, now."

The new building, adjacent to Safeway on the Sterling Highway, was previously a Rite-Aid pharmacy, before being abandoned for five years. Before that, it was a Payless Drug Store, and then a Pay N Save.

Penco Properties purchased the building in March, and the An-chorage-based commercial property management company brokered a lease with Gottschalks in July.

Penco's principle owner, Bob Penney, said he wanted to see the building used to help Soldotna.

"Ever since the Pay N Save left, it's been sort of a dying area," he said. "I'm sure we'll see a change in the stores that are attracted to the mall."

Penney said both his company and Gottschalks each have invested $500,000 in the space, so he expects a big payoff for Soldotna.

"I believe it will help the community," he said.

When the doors open at the new store, Gottschalks Co. will hold the lease on the Kenai Spur Highway location through the end of October, said building owner Earl Mundell. He said he will take his time replacing his previous tenant, however.

"We do not have anyone to go in there yet, but I'm an optimist as far as getting the right tenant," he said.

"The building is not indebted, so I'm not in a big hurry."

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