J.C. Penney closing draws mixed reactions from community

GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - The yes, we are open sign that adorns J.C. Penney in Gautier will soon be coming down. The long time tenant is saying goodbye to Singing River Mall after more than a decade in business. The move is drawing mixed reactions from shoppers.

"Sometimes you have to lose to gain." That's Gautier Mayor Gordon Gollott's response to the recent announcement that J.C. Penney is closing its location at Singing River Mall. The mayor said the long time tenant will truly be missed. The changes are in preparation for a $90 million mall makeover.

"We really don't have any stores that are big like this around here. I live in Moss Point, so this is the closest one without going to Biloxi or Mobile, so I was really was disappointed," a shopper said about the store closing.

"I think it was long overdue. They need a shopping center, and they need to update the mall," another shopper said.

Mayor Gollott is not surprised about the closing, but believes something better is coming.

"You do not want an anchor store to leave town, but we the city knew that possibility was going to happen in discussions with the developers for the new mall we are going to have," said Gollott.

Currently, a new $90 million open air mall is in the works. Gollott said all other mall tenants are off the property except for Belk and J.C. Penney. The mayor said Belk will remain part of the redevelopment project.

"We are going to have a Wal-Mart to open here behind where J.C. Penney is. We are going to have two sit-down restaurants and some additional retail outlets that are going to improve Gautier."

The mayor admits J.C. Penney was a revenue booster, but said the city will be okay financially despite the loss.

"In our budget reviewer, we planned possibility for reduction of sales tax. Sometimes you have to lose to gain."

Several shoppers anticipate gaining a list of nice places that offer the latest fashion, food and fun.

"Hopefully, it will bring a lot of interesting things here and maybe things for the kids to enjoy, so it may be a big change," said a shopper.

The mayor said mall demolition work was set for tomorrow, but has now been rescheduled for later this month. J.C. Penney will close March 21.

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