Downtown Chambersburg store set to close

January 22, 1997


Staff Writer

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - J.J. Newberry, a long-time downtown Chambersburg department store, will close in April, leaving a void on the southeast corner of the Public Square and bringing a hit to the center of town, some merchants there said Wednesday.

Eight employees in the Chambersburg store, including six who are full time, will lose their jobs, an employee there said Wednesday. Maxine Forney has worked for the company for 30 years, first in the McCrory store down the block and later in Newberry when McCrory closed. "I have to look for a job," she said. "I'm only 56."

The Newberry closing will have its greatest effect on elderly residents who live within walking distance. For many it has been handy to buy household necessities at moderate prices.


Jenny Holtry, 71, said she and other seniors are going to miss the store. "It's going to be awful," Holtry said.

"I don't know why they won't let it stay open," she said. "There are so many people like me who don't drive. I spoke to four or five people who don't know what they will do."

A sign near the front door announces that every Wednesday senior citizens can enjoy a 10 percent discount on purchases.

"This is the only thing downtown has left," said Marilyn Gadberry, another local Newberry shopper. "It's a shame, but people aren't coming downtown as much any more."

Paul Cullinane, executive director of Downtown Chambersburg, Inc., a non-profit promotional group, said he was disappointed that Newberry is leaving. "It was part of what makes the downtown complete," he said.

Meanwhile, a second major void will be left on the next corner this spring when the Christian Light Bookstore, which also sells office supplies, will leave its long-time home at 104 S. Main St. for new space on Wayne Avenue.

Most employees, shoppers and other merchants on that block of South Main agreed that parking meters have done more harm then good to the downtown, while still others think the center of town will become home to more specialty stores but fewer large retail stores like Newberry.

On a positive note, some new businesses have moved into the block that claims only one vacant store at the moment. The block has a jewelry store, a long-time candy store, bank, several thrift stores, an upscale men's store and a liquor store, among others.

William Earley, co-owner of Twice Read Books and Comics at 42 S. Main St., moved to the block last month from Second Street. "We are seeing three times the traffic here," Early said. He and his partner, Paul Scalia, buy, sell and appraise used books, Early said. The store will have its grand opening on Feb. 8.

Les Burger III has owned The Beach tanning salon at 76 S. Main St. for nine years. He said business overall downtown has slowed in the last three years.

The Newberry's announcement is part of a corporate-wide decision by the McCrory Corp. that will close about 300 five-and-dime stores and put about 3,500 people out of work. Corporate officials in McCrory Corp. headquarters in York, Pa., did not return phone calls Wednesday.

The latest purge will leave the variety store chain with about 160 stores still open, mostly east of the Mississippi River. At its peak, McCrory, which operates under the names McCrory, McLellan, H.L. Green, T.G. & Y., J.J. Newberry and G.C. Murphy, once had more than 800 stores.

The corporation has operated under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code since 1992, which allows the company to operate while working out payment arrangements with creditors.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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