It’s no secret that Sears, the popular department store that you remember from growing up has been having its share of difficulties over the past few years. The closings began in 2018, when the company —which also owns Kmart — filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Sears was having its problems over the past few years, just like all of the major retail outlets have since the advent of online shopping. Back in February 2020, they had announced an additional four New Jersey store closings and subsequently shuttered the Livingston, New Brunswick, Woodbridge, and Moorestown locations.

It’s an interesting time to look back at the history of Sears in our area. I remember distinctly after the race riots in Asbury Park during the '70s, many stores decided to pull out of downtown Asbury Park and relocate to what they considered “safer,” more accessible neighborhoods. That’s when the Seaview Square Mall was developed and the Sears that sat across the street from it (where Shop Rite stands today) moved its headquarters to a shiny new building within the Seaview Square complex.

Like a lot of post World War II young parents, my parents were huge fans of Sears, and when our family moved across the country from California to New Jersey, Sears was our go-to for all things essential to the home. That generation trusted Sears for the reputation of solid service and quality merchandise at rock-bottom prices. Every appliance we bought for that first New Jersey home (and for as long after that as I remember) was purchased from Sears. My father trusted Sears, what they sold, and everyone who worked there. Like many families in the days where there were only a handful of choices rather than thousands, my family thought of Sears as an American institution.

Obviously, for myriad reasons, those days are over. What was once the greatest department store in the country is dying a slow and painful death. And COVID-19 is the nail in the coffin for the latest of the greatest. Tuesday the announcement was made that the Sears in Rockaway Township is closing and more than ever before, Sears’ website’s job listings include many positions for people to help with store closings. Ironically, the COVID-19 shut down has created plenty of employment opportunities in this sector. A job listing for store closing help at the Rockaway Sears on Mount Hope Road was listed on Monday. Available positions include home appliance sales, cashiers, hardware sales and backroom. Another sad goodbye to another formerly vital piece of the very fabric of America.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Judi Franco. Any opinions expressed are Judi's own.

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