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Wards writes finish to Lower Burrell store

| Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2001

LOWER BURRELL: Rows and rows of empty shelves lined the walls of the Montgomery Wards store in Burrell Plaza Monday, as hundreds of customers sorted through the few remaining racks of merchandise.

The store's days were numbered when the national chain declared bankruptcy in January. The end came Monday.

'Everything is gone,' said Pete Santimauro, 16, of Upper Burrell. 'It's pretty surprising. I haven't been here in awhile.'

Santimauro and his friend, Matt Mangone of Arnold, came to the store, like many others, looking for last-minute, drastically marked down discounts.

Julie Myers of Leechburg picked up a pair of shorts and debated on purchasing them for her teen-age daughter.

'I have this bad feeling,' she said about the store closing. 'We usually buy our appliances here. Now, my husband and I feel sort of bad because there's not too much left.'

Store employees also expressed bittersweet emotions about the closing.

'We're definitely sad,' said Doris Van Horne, a 7-year employee.

'I've enjoyed working here. We had a very good manager - probably the best that we've ever had, and it's very unfortunate that this had to happen at this time.'

Van Horne said the closing would leave some families without a job and will be hard on college students who normally return to work during school breaks.

Christina Beard, 20, is one of the many college students who was employed by Wards.

'I've only been working here since Christmas. I didn't know that it would be closing,' she said. 'I've really enjoyed working here. I didn't dread it at all.'

Beard said she already had begun looking for other employment, but Van Horne said she would start today.

'I couldn't look for another job until all of this was done,' she said.

By noon, it was close to over. Most of the shelves were bare and only a few racks of clothes remained.

By 4 p.m., all of the few remaining items in the store - except for jewelry - had been reduced by 90 percent.

One shopper left with four tops for her daughter and a skirt for herself. The total price: $11.50.

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