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October 14, 2013

Oneonta campaigned to keep a Sears store downtown in 1978


A Sears, Roebuck and Co. executive within days assured Oneonta businessmen and city officials that the company is “very interested” in the city, but stopped short of saying what Sears would do when they close the store on Dec. 31. A catalog business in a much smaller store was among plans being considered.

The SOS committee didn’t give up.

“The Sears campaign committee has sent bouquets of flowers approximately every other day to Sears chairman Edward Telling in Chicago. Bard said he’s fairly sure they are arriving—lower level managers have let him know they find the situation embarrassing.”

The campaign climaxed on Thursday evening, Oct. 26, “Sears Day” in downtown Oneonta. Despite a steady downpour, 35 men and women stood outside the Sears store in solidarity that the store should remain open after Dec. 31.

A crowd gathered to hear speeches. Philip Bresee, of Bresee’s Department Store called Sears “a good competitor over the past 38 years” and urged the company to stay on Main Street.

Despite nearly 4,000 signatures collected on petitions, 300 coupons from the Star mailed to the committee and direct letters to Chicago, Sears officials remained quiet and the store, although set to close on Dec. 31, went on for only a short time later. Only the appliance department and catalog desk remained open, shown in a Star photo on Jan. 4, 1979.

It was reported on Friday, Jan. 19, 1979, that Joseph Ruffino, then owner of Ruffino’s Pizzeria in the Clinton Plaza, would buy the Sears building. There was a grand opening, known as the Main Street Mini Mall on Monday, June 18, 1979.

It had been hoped that Sears would open a catalog store in the city, but it was learned on Feb. 3, 1979 that a store would open in the next six to eight weeks in the Oneonta Plaza. A bank branch in the easternmost storefront had relocated to what was then the Jamesway Plaza, now a Springbrook property.

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