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Shoppers share memories as Sears at Lakeshore Mall in Gainesville prepares to close
Customers shop at Sears in Lakeshore Mall on Friday, Jan. 4, 2019. This Sears location is set to close in late March, which will bring an end to the department store's history in Hall County.

Seventy-seven-year-old Mary Young remembers flipping through the Sears catalog as a girl and weaving her way through crowds of people to peruse the store’s merchandise. 

Growing up in Gainesville she went to the original Sears, Roebuck and Co. department store, which opened in 1965 on South Enota Drive. She later started visiting the Sears at Lakeshore Mall in Gainesville, which arrived in 1987.

The Sears at that location is set to close in late March, which will bring an end to the department store’s history in Hall County. It is among many stores that will soon close nationwide, part of a restructuring the company is going through in an attempt to remain viable in the age of Amazon and other online competitors.

But Sears still has loyal customers who don’t get the same experience in cyberspace.

“I hate to see it go,” Young said. “I love to come in here and walk around. It’s just a good place.”

Genevieve Smith, who is in her late 70s, said she found the news of Sears’ closing surprising. 

As a kid one of her favorite activities was looking through the toy edition of the Sears catalog. 

She said during the late ’40s and early ’50s her neighbors, like many others during the time, would repurpose the catalog pages to use as toilet paper in their outhouse.

Mike Middleton of Flowery Branch has been a loyal customer of Sears for more than 30 years. 

“Sears was my place to come and shop,” Middleton said. “I would get all my tools here. Now I’ll have to go to Walmart, Home Depot or Lowe’s.”

It’s not just shoppers who will miss the iconic store.

Once the Sears at Lakeshore Mall closes in March, Cheryl Hester will settle into retirement. She has worked at the location since 1997. 

Hester recalled the time when she first started working for Sears. She said it used to be jam-packed with shoppers back then, especially during the winter holidays. 

Hester said she noticed the number of customers coming into the Sears drastically dropped during the construction of Dick’s Sporting Goods in 2013. 

Dick’s created a gap between Sears and the rest of the mall, forcing people to walk outside of the building to access the entrance.

“The elderly people didn’t want to have to walk out,” Hester said. “It was easier for them to walk in the mall.”

Sears Holdings filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October. The company said in a statement that it told the employees of 80 Kmart and Sears stores of the upcoming closings on Dec. 27.