Governor tries to save Penney store in Nevada town

ELY, Nev. (AP) -- Gov. Kenny Guinn has joined an effort to save Nevada's oldest J.C. Penney store.

In a letter, Guinn urged J.C. Penney Chairman and Chief Executive Allen Questrom to reconsider the company's decision to close the Ely store.

Opened in 1910, it's the last department store in the struggling mining town of 4,000 located 320 miles east of Reno. Without it, Ely shoppers would have to drive 180 miles to Elko for clothing and other items.

"I believe that the preservation of this historic, long-term relationship among J.C. Penney, the city of Ely and the state of Nevada is vitally important to each party involved," Guinn wrote.

Guinn spokesman Greg Bortolin said the governor has not heard back from Questrom.

J.C. Penney spokesman Quinton Crenshaw held out little hope for Ely residents, saying it was rare for the company to change a decision about a closure because of public sentiment.

But he said the company has extended the closing date from Oct. 25 to Jan. 10 in a concession to residents. The Ely store is the only one in the chain scheduled to close.

Dan Leoni, manager of Ely's Penney store, said it was a business decision to close the store. It was the 24th store opened by the chain, which was originally called The Golden Rule.

"Ely residents feel proprietary about their Penney's; it's their store and not the Penney company's ... But the company had to make a tough decision based on profitability," he said.

Guinn wrote the letter at the request of Ely residents and leaders, who have pledged to continue the fight to keep the store open.

Ely Mayor Bob Miller said he's planning to travel to the store's headquarters in Plano, Texas to plead the case in person.

On Monday, he plans to arrange details for the meeting with Ed Howard, Penney's western regional manager.

Losing the store would be a major blow to the community, residents say.

"Where will I shop?" asked 82-year-old Cloe Brockman, who no longer drives a car and can't shop over the internet because she doesn't own a computer.

"If you need to buy a pair of socks or a winter coat, you'll have to drive 400 miles round trip," said Dave Tilford, owner of Desert Mountain Realty in Ely. "I know a young single mom who's working two jobs to support her children. She can't jump in her car and drive off to Elko."

If the fight to save the store fails, Guinn plans to work with residents and the state's economic development director to lure another department store to the area.

The former copper boomtown has struggled after a string of mine closures since the 1970s.


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