Joe’s to close as soon as merchandise is gone

April 13, 2009

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 10 a.m. April 13, 2009

On the first day of its going-out-of-business sale, Joe’s was packed with bargain hunters angling for deals on skis, tents and other sporting goods.

Customers jammed the Northwest Gilman Boulevard store Friday, a day after Gordon Brothers Group, a Boston-based liquidator, announced it would close the chain. Joe’s filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in early March. Executives hoped to find a buyer for the beleaguered chain, but only liquidators submitted bids.

Frank Morton, a principal at Gordon Brothers, said the Issaquah store and 30 others would close after all of the merchandise is sold. Given the popularity of the merchandise, Morton estimated the liquidation sale would be complete in “weeks rather than months.” The store opened in August 1999.

Items at the store were marked down 10 percent to 30 percent last week. The prospect of discounts drew shoppers like Issaquah resident Dale Timmons. He bought a case of motor oil, marked down 10 percent.

“I expected to see better markdowns, but I needed oil, so I’m buying it,” he said.

Ron Barringham, of Graham, picked up a generator and a Leatherman multipurpose tool. Barringham, who just bought a recreational vehicle, said he was using the sale as an opportunity to stock up.

Joe’s employees declined interview requests and referred calls to corporate headquarters in Wilsonville, Ore. A company spokeswoman said she could no longer comment on behalf of the chain.

Similar stores generate between $50,000 and $100,000 in sales tax revenue for the city. Autumn Monahan, city public information officer, said the shutdown does not mean the city will lose the dollars. Because other local retailers offer some of the same items, the city could recoup the revenue, she said.

REI has a store in a Northwest Gilman Boulevard shopping plaza less than a mile from Joe’s. Megan Behrbaum, a spokeswoman for Kent-based REI, described the Joe’s shutdown as a loss for the entire sporting goods industry.

“Joe’s has been around for 57 years, and inspired so many people to live active, healthy lifestyles,” she said.

Morton said Joe’s is the latest casualty of the recession. Gordon Brothers also handled liquidation sales for Linens-N-Things and Circuit City. A Linens-N-Things store in Pickering Place shut down last year when the national chain closed.

“We’ve seen a lot of retailers fall by the wayside in these tough economic times,” Morton said.

Joe’s is the latest national retailer to close a store in Issaquah. Albertsons closed its East Lake Sammamish Parkway store last April.

Edward Orkney, a World War II Army Air Corps pilot, founded Joe’s in 1952. Known as G.I. Joe’s, the store grew to a chain with stores across Oregon, Washington and Idaho. A private equity firm bought the retailer in 2007 and changed its name to Joe’s.

Timmons recalls shopping at the old G.I. Joe’s when he lived in Portland several years ago.

“G.I. Joe’s has been around since they were just an Army surplus store,” he said.

Reach Reporter Warren Kagarise at 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.

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