‘It’s bittersweet’: Hazard JCPenney celebrates 30th anniversary as closing date looms

Published: Feb. 23, 2021 at 6:55 PM EST|Updated: 18 hours ago
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HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) - Tuesday, JCPenney in Hazard celebrated its 30th anniversary. First opening its doors February 23, 1991.

“We’ve received a lot of recognition today from various partners within JCPenney that have called, they’ve reached out they’ve sent flowers. It’s been outstanding that they’ve chosen to celebrate with us on this major accomplishment of 30 years,” said General Manager Tanielle Kemper.

The anniversary is bittersweet, as six weeks ago, JCPenney officials announced the location is permanently closing. Monday, it was announced the final day will be May 16.

“There’s been of tears. We’ve reminisced a lot, we’ve cut up and we’ve laughed and we’ve thought about former associates and we’ve had a couple people even reach out to us,” said Kemper. “You think back about the dress code you think about how things were merchandised you think about the associates that have been employed through JCPenney. There’s been so many lived impacted.”

Kemper says she has grown close with many of the shoppers who come in frequently.

“You help a customer that’s say buying a tie for a funeral you help them. You cry with them you develop that friendship with them,” said Kemper.

She has developed friendships with her 30 employees who will now be looking for work.

“I was as blunt as I could be but it was a very heartfelt moment. It truly impacted us all and once those words left my mouth I’ve honestly not been the same since. It’s a great loss,” she said.

One of the employees, Josie Hagans, has worked at JCPenney for nearly 13 years. She says the store has become her family.

“May the 16 is gonna be the rough day for me,” said Hagans.

She has also grown close with the shoppers.

“When I get on the intercom to announce the announcements they say, ‘Oh that’s my Josie. I know her. I love her’ they will say they love me and sometimes they say they come to see me cause I worked at Watsons for 31 years so I knew a lot of my customers,” Hagans said.

Debbie and Phillip St. John have shopped many times at JCPenney throughout their nearly 30 years in Hazard.

“There’s certain things you would come for here that you knew wouldn’t be anywhere else,” said Debbie.

When they heard JCPenney stores were closing around the country, they hoped Hazard would not be on the list.

“They always had really great sales that’s something everybody will miss,” said Debbie. “It’s always nice to actually see stuff and touch stuff and know what you’re getting.”

Everything in the store is 30-50% off.

“Truthfully we’re receiving more now than what we did in the holiday season so we’re constantly working the merchandise out onto the sales floor. The merchandise will be continued to be marked down throughout the liquidation process,” said Kemper.

She expects to have a wide selection of merchandise up until the closing date.

All sales are final. There are no returns. Shoppers can still use their JCP credit card and earn rewards but cannot redeem them after February 28.

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