Verne Spence, 58, prefers shopping at Shopko in West Boise because it’s more laid back — more quiet — than shopping at Walmart.
Unfortunately, that may be exactly why the department store is closing.
“It’s a shame,” Spence said inside the store Monday. “It’s too bad other businesses have gotten so big.”
The Shopko, at 8105 W. Fairview Avenue at the corner of Milwaukee Street, announced on Dec. 21 that it will close its doors sometime in March, store Manager Chris Erickson said. As the store, which the chain calls Shopko Boise West, liquidates its assets, nearly everything on sale has been marked down 10 to 30 percent. Discounts at liquidation sales typically increase as time goes on and items remain unsold, though signs above certain items Monday said their prices would not be cut further.
In the Treasure Valley, only two Shopkos will remain, at 2655 Broadway Ave. in South Boise and at 2100 Caldwell Blvd. in Nampa In 2016, Shopko closed its Meridian store, which opened in 1999, after a Walmart moved in next door. Now Albertsons plans to move into that space, which is in the Meridian Crossroads shopping center near the intersection of North Eagle Road and East Fairview Avenue.
In the war of discount superstores, Wisconsin-based Shopko has struggled amid rising debt associated with its real estate purchases and declining margins, according to Retail Dive, a news site.
Online retail has cut into the sales of brick-and-mortar retailers around the country, with department stores especially feeling the pain. But many of the shoppers at Shopko prefer it to online ordering.
“I actually browse online and then end up shopping in stores,” Spence said. “I don’t want to wait for shipping when I can just drive out here and get what I need.”
On New Year’s Eve, just a few cars were parked in the vast lot of Shopko Boise West.
Inside, Eagle shopper Mary Keeler, 47, wheeled around an empty shopping cart. She comes to the store a few times a month.
“It’s one of my favorite stores,” she said. “I find everything I come for. It’s always been here.”
She said that even when this Shopko closes, she’ll still be willing to make the 30-minute trip from Eagle to the Shopko in South Boise.
For other shoppers, like Judy Sullivan, Shopko is simply the closest option. “It’s about convenience,” she said.
A.J. Brown, 23, browsed the store for new clothes. He grew up in West Boise and said his mother and aunt would come to the store in search of deals. Now he does, too.
“It’s crazy how there’s so much closing,” he said. “With Kmart going out of business, too, it’s just another one going down.”
Kmart closed its last Boise store, on Fairview at Five Mile Road, in 2016. It closed its last Treasure Valley store, in Nampa, last summer. Sears, which also owns the Kmart chain, is closing its last Treasure Valley store soon at the Boise Towne Square mall.
While many Shopko Boise West shoppers said they would simply find a new store, employees don’t have that kind of flexibility. Erickson, the store manager, said Shopko had not provided him with any specifics about employee layoffs. He declined to say how many people the store employs or how the store’s sale have changed in recent years.
The Shopko building is owned by Boise Shopko LLC, which is registered to Leo Notar, a real estate broker who helped Wyoming-based SHS Building LLC buy the Shopko building in Spokane, which is also preparing to close, the Spokane Journal of Business reported.
The rest of Boise’s Shopko Plaza, which includes almost 45,000 square feet of strip mall space adjoining the main Shopko building, is for sale. It is owned by Guard Publishing Co., which publishes The Register-Guard in Eugene, Oregon.