Press-Republican

August 16, 2011

Lowe's leaves Ti; 86 jobless

KIM SMITH DEDAM
Press-Republican

TICONDEROGA — Unmet sales projections were the primary reason for the sudden closure of the Lowe's store here and in six other locations around the United States.

"The seven stores missed sales estimates from the outset," Public Relations Manager Stacey Lentz said Monday afternoon from corporate headquarters in Mooresville, N.C.

"They didn't improve over time. We didn't see a scenario that led to profitability for the store."

Workers at the Ti Lowe's and six other home-and-building-supply-store locations were given less than 24 hours' notice.

"Once we closed last night," Lentz said, "we had an all-store meeting to inform employees the store would close on Monday morning."

Calls placed to the Ticonderoga location on Wicker Street were answered Monday by a machine with a message that says: "We're sorry, but this location is permanently closed. Please visit our location in Glens Falls."

PRAISED WORKFORCE

Lowe's in Ticonderoga had 86 employees — 58 were full time and 28 part time, Lentz said.

They will continue to receive pay and benefits for 90 days, she added.

"We are not relocating them ourselves, but they do have the opportunity to apply for openings at any of our other stores."

The Ticonderoga store had been open here for less than 2½ years.

Lentz could not comment on what the closures mean for overall corporate profitability.

But she did compliment the workforce.

"These employees were very committed to their store and to customer service."

By 8 a.m. Monday, the Ticonderoga store listing had been removed from the Lowe's nationwide site map on its Web page.

The sign — which won Adirondack Park regulatory exemption in a hard-fought effort several years ago — was gone.

The 102,000-square-foot retail operation opened Feb. 27, 2009, at a reported cost of $12 million after several years of planning and zoning discussions that ultimately situated the store on the outskirts of Ticonderoga's former village boundaries.

ONLY SPECULATION

Town Supervisor Debra Malaney said she started receiving calls about the home-building-supply giant's withdrawal at about 10 p.m. Sunday.

"Nothing was said beforehand to anyone," she told the Press-Republican after the Essex County personnel meeting on Monday.

It is an economic-impact shock to everyone in surrounding towns, she said.

"I have no concrete answers as to why they closed the store, only speculation that closure of the (Champlain) bridge and the pressure of the current economy might have had some impact on the decision."

Malaney said she planned to contact lawmakers in Albany to see if there is any redress.

She also intended to call Lowe's corporate officials to ask if they have experienced fiscal issues that go beyond the economy and the Champlain Bridge closure.

The town worked hard for several years to secure a site for Lowe's near other retail giants, including Walmart and a McDonald's restaurant.

"Lowe's was under a 485B payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) program that offered reduced taxes for 10 years," Malaney said.

"But the PILOT is only good for an operational business."

DOESN'T BODE WELL

Lowe's spokeswoman said the site is leased.

"We will begin to work now to help find a tenant for the site," Lentz said.

But a 102,000-square-foot retail building is a large footprint, Malaney said.

Industrial Development Agency Co-Director Jody Olcott said county business developers had no prior warning that Lowe's had any intentions of leaving Essex County.

Olcott shopped at the home-supply store on Sunday and said the shelves were fully stocked and business seemed routine.

Essex County supervisors agreed that the business decision does not bode well for the region.

"This is a huge blow to not only the Ticonderoga economy but to surrounding towns, as well," Malaney said at the Board of Supervisors' Finance Committee meeting Monday.

"This is going to be devastating to the southern part of the county," Thomas Scozzafava (R-Moriah) said.

Cathy Moses (R-Schroon) said 17 supervisors there agreed with Malaney.

"We're all extremely disappointed."

Lowe's maintains store operations in Glens Falls, nearly 90 miles to the south, and in Plattsburgh, about 60 miles north of Ticonderoga.

Other Lowe's stores closed in Elgin and Schaumburgh, Ill.; Meriden, Conn.; Kenai, Alaska; Riverdale, Ga.; and Cambridge, Minn.

Email Kim Smith Dedam at: kdedam@pressrepublican.com