A second anchor store is moving out of the troubled Wausau Center Mall in the city’s downtown.
The timing of the announcement by Sears took some Wausau political and community leaders by surprise.
After another mall anchor store, JC Penney, closed in May 2014. Wausau Mayor Robert Mielke — who was just two weeks in office — said he learned about Sears when everyone else did on Monday morning.
“It’s a bummer as far as the short term, but in the long term, I think we knew this was probably what was going to happen,” said Mielke. “I’m also concerned as far as the job loss for those folks over there. That’s the most tragic thing. But we’ll get through this and we’ll move forward.”
The Wausau City Council approved a loan request by mall owner CBL for $4.1 million to move the Younkers department store to the space vacated by JC Penney. The loan was approved in late February after weeks of debate by the council.
Mall owner CBL approached the city in August saying the loan to help retail department store Younkers had to be done immediately. Downtown businessman and former mall manager Mark Craig said he now worries that the city may have taken too long.
“It took a longer process than CBL was hoping for when they came to the city last August,” said Craig. “So, I’m not sure if that’s what tipped the scales, but it’s obviously a disappointing scenario and we’ll have bigger challenges for downtown Wausau.”
The announcement by Sears makes Younkers the only remaining mall anchor.