Less than nine months apart, two big stores announce they are leaving the Bristol Mall. While Belk is only moving up the road into a new storefront at The Pinnacle, J.C. Penney is closing for good in May.
The Bristol store is one of 33 across the country that are being closed in an effort to save J.C. Penney $65 million.
The news of the closure comes as a big shock to long time shopper Wendy Spry. "It's very upsetting. It's truly upsetting to me," said Spry.
Penney's has been Spry's go-to-store since her teenage years, when the store was in Downtown Bristol. "Every time I think of buying something that is of quality and of good price, I go to J.C. Penney. I know I can find something that I can afford," said Spry.
The news of J.C. Penney's departure is even a shock to the Bristol Mall. Mall manager Heather Hill told News 5 over phone that the mall doesn't have an official statement on the matter and that the announcement took management by surprise.
In fact, Penney's didn't tell the mall before news broke. The Bristol Mall found out when News 5 called for comment Wednesday.
Others in Bristol have plenty to say, however. "I think it's the beginning of the end for the mall. I don't know what's going to happen. It is kind of upsetting. It's a shame. It really is a shame," said shopper Jared Spry.
Bristol, Virginia Mayor Guy Odum said the city is going to do whatever it can to help out the mall and the people who will lose their jobs. "Hopefully, we can meet with the mall people and see if there is something, we don't know if there is or not, what we can do. But we need to meet with them and at least extend a hand out and say, 'What are you doing, and what can we do to help fill that hole there?'" said Odum.
"J.C. Penney has always been that staple for me, and I know so many people that go there, that depend on them. I don't know who else we are going to go to," said Wendy Spry.
Other retailers are even reaching out to J.C. Penney employees. A representative from Lowe's Home Improvement in Bristol called News 5 and said Lowe's representatives went to the mall today to tell J.C. Penney employees that Lowe's is getting ready to hire seasonal workers, and encouraged workers to apply.