Yankton will soon be saying goodbye to a decades-old retail fixture of the community.
Earlier this month, it was announced that the Yankton Sears Hometown Store will be closing and its merchandise liquidated.
The store, which opened in 1999, has been locally owned by Kerry and Toby Woehl for most of its existence. The Woehls were also owners of Yesterday’s Café and, at one time, of Rock Bottom Beer & Burgers (RB). Most recently, the couple was involved in the Red Hydrant Inn & Playground, whose operatorship passed to Clay and Rachel Stoddard of Dog Sense in March.
The Sears Hometown Store was located for many years in the same strip mall as RB and Red Hydrant, and only moved to its new location at Broadway Ave. and 8th Street last fall.
“We relocated back in October, so we’ve only been at the new location for about seven months,” Kerry Woehl told the Press & Dakotan. “We will be here for a few more weeks. They have not told us when the closing is. We’re sorry to see (the business) go.”
Though Yankton’s Sears Hometown Store is individually owned and operated, it is based on a contract with Sears and that contract, which was set for renewal in July, was not renewed, she said.
Due to a non-disclosure clause, many details about the store’s closing cannot be shared.
But there are some things the Woehls can tell the community.
“We would love for our customers to know that we’ve appreciated them over the last 20-plus years,” Kerry Woehl said. “As far as our closing, it has nothing to do with coronavirus; it has nothing to do with COVID-19 — our sales have actually increased.”
Yankton, a close-knit community, has been very good to her family, she said, who loves calling Yankton home.
“We’ve enjoyed serving the community for the last 20 years. There was a little stint where we sold the store, and then we did buy it back,” Woehl said. “We missed it.”
Now, the Hometown Store is closing and Yankton will lose another retailer, she said.
“I know that you’ve seen the term ‘retail apocalypse’, but unfortunately, Sears has been forced to make some tough decisions, and liquidation of the Yankton market was one,” Woehl said.
On a personal level, it seems that owning several businesses in town has made for a remarkable experience.
“Having multitude of businesses helps staffing-wise and you get customers from one business to the next,” she said. “We’ll sell them a washer and dryer and then I’ll serve them pancakes and eggs. It’s been great.”
There have been many rewarding experiences on the community level as well, she said, most recently, recovering from last year’s flooding.
“Last year, when we had the extreme flooding, Yankton really came together during those times to support each other,” she said. “(We were) working together to provide supplies and assisting with the evacuation of the water, working as a community with sandbagging, sump pumps and wet/dry vacs to try to accommodate people in hardship.”
Woehl also acknowledged longtime employees Rico Eversley and Daulton Hawthorne for their service.
As far as future plans, there are none yet, Woehl said, but a non-compete clause in their Sears contract means the Woehls will not be opening another appliance store.
“We are looking for green pastures. We don’t know what’s on the horizon,” she said. “Toby and I still have not figured out what we want to be when we grow up.”
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