Businesses continue to suffer amid COVID-19 shutdown

Pier 1 Imports in Valencia. 052020 Dan Watson/The Signal

As thousands of stores have been closed nationwide since mid-March amid the coronavirus pandemic, many retailers and restaurants, big and small, are struggling to survive the shutdown, while others have already announced their permanent closure.

Pier 1, a home decor chain with a location in the River Oaks Shopping Center in Valencia, announced Tuesday it planned to close all of its 540 remaining stores.

This comes after the store first announced it would close about half of its stores earlier this year, and subsequently filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy about three months ago, before the current health crisis caused it to shut its doors temporarily.

The chain intends to wind down retail operations as soon as reasonably possible, reopening stores after mandated closures to liquidate merchandise. 

“This decision follows months of working to identify a buyer who would continue to operate our business going forward,” Pier 1 CEO and CFO Robert Riesbeck said in a prepared statement. “Unfortunately, the challenging retail environment has been significantly compounded by the profound impact of COVID-19, hindering our ability to secure such a buyer and requiring us to wind down.”

Pier 1 Imports in Valencia. 052020 Dan Watson/The Signal

Similarly, J.C. Penney, a retail chain with a location in the Westfield Valencia Town Center, announced Friday it, too, had filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy, making it the largest retailer to do so due to the COVID-19 shutdown.

Days later, the retailer said it plans to close nearly 30% of its approximately 850 stores before the next fiscal year as part of its restructuring plan.

While the company has yet to announce which stores will shutter, 192 of the stores are set to close by February, then another 50 in 2022.

Other retailers, like Gap Inc., which also owns Old Navy and Banana Republic, all of which have stores in Westfield, said in an April U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing that it has indefinitely suspended rent payments at retailers across the country, totaling more than $100 million per month.

In addition, the company is renegotiating its leases, but says it may have to terminate the leases in certain instances and shut down stores permanently.

While it is unclear which stores the company plans to close, they are expected to make those decisions over the next year. 

Panini Palace in Newhall. 052020 Dan Watson/The Signal

While shopping malls, like Westfield, remain shut down under current restrictions, some retailers within, such as Macy’s, have reopened for curbside pickup. 

“All of our California stores remain closed to customers. We are offering contactless curbside delivery with customers who request it,” Jacqueline King, director of media relations at Macy’s, said via email. “This is in compliance with current regulations, which allow fulfillment. We look forward to welcoming customers back to our stores once permitted, with enhanced health and safety measures.”

Following social distancing guidelines, Macy’s colleagues confirm a customer’s order, then place the merchandise in the trunk of their car, limiting contact between customers and colleagues, King added.  

Restaurants nationwide are not immune to this issue, as a survey of more than 4,000 restaurant owners and operators conducted by the National Restaurant Association in March found that 11% said they anticipate they will permanently close within the next 30 days.

Locally, Panini Palace in Newhall, known for its plethora of sandwich and salad options, was reported to have closed in late April, though it was unclear whether the closure was due to COVID-19.

Santa Clarita resident Eve Bushman says she’s sad to see this local restaurant close, as it was one she went to often. 

Souplantation in Valencia. 052020 Dan Watson/The Signal

“The staff was extremely friendly, the salads were unique and fresh, and the paninis were to die for,” Bushman said via text message. “My very-picky mom loved the food, too.”

Souplantation, the buffet-style restaurant also known as Sweet Tomatoes outside of Southern California, recently announced it will not be reopening its doors after the temporary shutdown.

All 97 locations, including the one located at Valencia Town Center, are set to remain closed permanently, while Garden Fresh Restaurants CEO John Haywood said he doesn’t see a path for reopening with fears of buffet-style dining amid the current health crisis.

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A sign on the door of Souplantation in Valencia still reads “temporary closure” on May 20, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

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