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Herberger's closing brings sadness, questions

Clothes, accessories and home goods once covered the now-bare floors and fixtures of Herberger's department store in the Viking Plaza Mall. The store closed Sunday, Aug. 26, and managers turned over the keys to the mall two days later. (Karen Tolkkinen / Echo Press)

Terry Dalluge, her mother Grace Christensen and sister Kim Stich were making their way to Herberger's in the Viking Plaza Mall Tuesday when they learned it had closed earlier than they expected.

"We were coming down to get the last-minute deals," said Dalluge, who lives near Battle Lake. "That's sad."

The closing of the store on Sunday, Aug. 26, which traces its roots to Osakis, marked the end of an era. Herberger's had sold clothes and household goods since 1977 in the Viking Plaza Mall. Before that, it had operated on Broadway in downtown Alexandria.

Corporate mergers and acquisitions caused Herberger's to end up the property of Bon-Ton Stores Inc., which filed for bankruptcy and announced this spring it was closing all its stores, including all Herberger's locations. It was the second big loss this year for the mall, which saw JCPenney turning out its lights last spring. GNC also closed recently, with owners Ryan and Richelle Yager telling customers they couldn't compete against online shopping.

"I'm going to miss them," said Pat Eidal of Dalton of Herberger's, which was her favorite store and where she would shop every week or two. At least her second-favorite store, Joann Fabrics & Crafts, remains open, she said.

Angie Schmidt and her daughter Allison, 17, of Alexandria, were at the mall Tuesday looking for a dress. The mom of five said she typically shops online to save time, but still relied on local shops when she needed to find things quickly.

"Glick's is all we've got now," she said. "Glick's and Maurice's."

Elsewhere in the mall, it was business as usual. A shoe store employee measured a boy for shoes, a family of five bought pretzels, a father and his children left Dunham's Sports with purchases.

And some stopped to peer through glass walls at products they couldn't even touch. The mall is turning into something of a showcase for businesses located elsewhere. A cell phone company, real estate agency and log furniture maker have all created non-staffed displays in the mall.

One of them, Log Creations, showcases its products in a glassed-in display near Herberger's. It posts a phone number and website where customers can order their items.

"I was going to give it a test run for a year and see how it worked out," said Bill Boerger of Frazee, who owns the company with his wife, Mary Beth Boerger, and also sells at holiday kiosks and at the State Fair.

Viking Plaza Mall manager Scot Snitker has said he anticipates new businesses to come in to replace the loss of the two anchor stores. But for now those two spots sit empty, and Boerger said his display hasn't proven worthwhile.

"The traffic hasn't been in the mall at all," he said. "With Herberger's closing, we're really skeptical how that mall's going to turn out."

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