Decorah Residents Fighting to Keep J.C. Penney Store in Business

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DECORAH, Iowa  --  A nearly century-old store in Decorah will not be shutting down without a fight.

"If we don't do anything, they're surely going to leave. So why not do anything we can to communicate to J.C. Penney, and amongst the community, how important that sense of local is," said Christina Wiltgen of the Decorah Area Chamber of Commerce.

The downtown J.C. Penney is one of 130 across the country slated to close. The company recently announced the closing dates would be pushed back to the end of July, which gives Decorah residents more time to fight for keeping their store.

So far, an online petition received more than 3,300 signatures, and residents also started a letter-writing campaign. To some, the fight is about more than retail options.

"My wife, who is actually from this county, said she as a kid came with her parents to J.C. Penney, so there are generations that come to J.C. Penney," said Decorah resident Don Arendt.

"You talk to folks at the Vesterheim Gift Shop and they have people who come down from the cities, and they save their shopping to do in downtown Decorah, and possibly, specifically at the J.C. Penney store, because they get such a different experience here than they get in any other J.C. Penney," said Wiltgen.

The closing date was initially much sooner, but the company pushed it back due to sales and store traffic increasing. Three other Iowa locations are also on the closing list; those are in Fort Dodge, Oskaloosa, and Ottumwa.