Austin needs to keep moving forward

Published 10:06 am Saturday, April 21, 2018

In the ever-evolving story that is the 18th Avenue Northwest corridor, Austin was forced to take a step back when it was announced that Younkers would be closing, a move necessitated by the closing of its parent company, The Bon-Ton Stores Inc.

For that part of town over recent years, it seems like a back-and-forth tug. K-Mart closes, Runnings opens. Target closes, Hy-Vee moves and expands.

And now this.

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Younkers has been a valued anchor along that strip of retail and customers will no doubt lament the loss of the store as the company liquidates its holdings and merchandise.

For Austin residents, this isn’t a matter of what could have been done or what wasn’t done. This decision was made on a corporate level. Bon-Ton filed voluntary petitions for a court-supervised financial restructuring under Chapter 11 in February and in January it announced that it was closing 47 stores followed by this latest move.

Looking back, these moves might have been a foreshadowing of what was to come, but not indicative, per se, of our store’s success. The truth, perhaps painfully so, is there is little that can be done right now in regard to our Younkers store.

It is another lesson that we are part of a wider world that impacts us locally — especially in the era of online shopping. Ironically, online sales, one of the things that is forcing retail department stores to close their doors, is now our only avenue to find some things only a department store could offer.

Now is the time to regroup and redouble efforts to pull in other businesses to fill that void. We have city officials who are working hard to draw business here and others who work hard to keep them here.

So, we can also do our part. We can buy locally whenever we can; we can show off and talk up our vibrant and growing community so prospective business will want to move here.

Austin is a good place, filled with great schools, a wonderful slate of recreation opportunities, a diverse and rich arts culture, a strong faith community — the list goes on. There is a future after Younkers, but we — all of us — have to work hard to make it happen.