Good morning, troops. It's Thursday, Feb. 1.
Another day reveals another part of Peoria history ebbing away, alas. The Bergner's department store at Sheridan Village shopping center, a mainstay there for more than 60 years, is to close for good — probably in about three months, it was announced Wednesday.
The impending Bergner's closure shouldn't come as a surprise.
The Sheridan Village location hasn't exactly been teeming with customers, as a recent Nick in the Morning visit documented. Retail is a tough environment these days, thanks in large part to internet shopping.
And Bergner's partent company, The Bon-Ton Stores Inc., is not at all in robust financial health. The Sheridan Village closing was among 42 the department-store chain announced Wednesday.
As far as its brand names go, Bon-Ton is a hodge-podge. It operates stores under its own name and Bergner's, as well as five other titles.
According to a report, Bon-Ton might be planning to unify some of those names. If the report is true, that would result in more Peoria history being dashed.
Simultaneously, another aspect of Peoria's past might be in for a revival.
The remaining Bergner's stores might be rebranded as Carson's sometime this year, so states this Chicago Tribune story written by former Journal Star intern Lauren Zumbach and forwarded by a Nick in the Morning co-conspirator.
The Bergner's flagship is located at The Shoppes at Grand Prairie in Northwest Peoria. Other outlets in the Journal Star area are located in Galesburg, Pekin and Peru. Beyond there in Illinois, Bergner's also operates in Bloomington, Champaign, Forsyth, Quincy, Rockford, Springfield and Sterling.
The Bergner's name has graced Peoria businesses for almost 130 years, ever since Peter Bergner established a dry-goods store near the current western foot of the Cedar Street Bridge.
But Carson's has a substantial Peoria history, although it was founded in LaSalle. Carson's and Bergner's have been intertwined in other ways, too.
The department-store chain then known as Carson Pirie Scott & Co. expanded to Peoria in the late 1950s, when it purchased locally based Block & Kuhl. Carson's took over the flagship Block & Kuhl store, located at Adams and Fulton streets in Downtown Peoria.
That building later became the Jefferson Bank, then Chase bank. Soon it will be the headquarters of OSF HealthCare.
It also was directly across Fulton Street from the main Bergner's store. That turned out to be the epicenter of a downstate department-store war.
"Bergner's was determined to run Carson's out of Illinois," Peoria businessman Henry Lawrence told the Tribune for this 1989 story.
That didn't quite happen, although Carson's presence south of Chicago dwindled eventually.
Carson's left Downtown before Bergner's did and relocated to Northwoods Mall, then departed Peoria entirely. Carson's filled the space once held by Macy's, now occupied in part by the Round 1 entertainment center.
In the late 1980s, Bergner's acquired Carson's following an offer of almost $340 million. Bergner's planned to become a Midwestern retail giant, the '89 Trib story stated.
But within a few years, Bergner's filed for bankruptcy. A series of other transactions led to Bon-Ton purchasing Bergner's, and led to where we are today.
The '89 Trib story also stated retail might be making a comeback in Downtown Peoria. A $150 million shopping complex was in the works. And the Peoria area was rebounding from job losses at its major employer, Caterpillar Inc.
"Things are looking up," said Bob Marcusse, then-president of the then-Peoria Economic Development Council. "Unemployment is down from the double-digit figures we had three to four years ago. Right now, retail is booming."
Some things never change. Some things change dramatically.
One thing that never changes is Nick in the Morning's pursuit of bad music heard on the way to work. This is a prime example.