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Liquidation sale begins at Bergner’s

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Liquidation sales are beginning at Bon-Ton department stores, which includes Bergner's.

The going-out-of-business sales begin Friday at Boston Store, Younkers, Elder-Beerman, Herberger's and other Bon-Ton stores. The sales are expected to last 10 to 12 weeks.

A judge signed off on the auction which gave a group of liquidators and creditors the bankrupt Bon-Ton for nearly $800 million. The liquidation involves 212 stores and furniture galleries. The closure of Bon-Ton stores affects about 20,000 employees nationally.

Court documents say all stores are to be closed no later than Aug. 31.

Bon-Ton lineage traces to Amboy

Little would Samuel Carson or John Pirie know the legacy of their Amboy business would continue for more than 150 years.

Carson and Pirie opened a dry goods store in Amboy, located in Lee County about 16 miles northwest of Mendota, in 1855. They left for Chicago after about 10 years, added business partner Robert Scott’s name to the firm in 1891, and Carson Pirie Scott would become one of northern Illinois’ leading retail chain stores. 

After business acquisitions came and went — including a 1989 sale to Bergner’s, which was bought by The Bon-Ton Stores a few years later — but the Carson name has stuck around, until now. 

Bon-Ton announced Tuesday the closure of all of its stores, more than 200 in all throughout the northern United States – including the Peru Bergner’s – and within 10 to 12 weeks, the final Carson’s location will shutter its doors, bringing an end to 163 years of continuous business. 

Carson’s is the oldest chain under the Bon-Ton umbrella, which also includes the Bon-Ton parent stores, Boston Store, Elder-Beerman, Herberger’s, and Younker’s. The Pirie and Scott names were dropped from the Carson’s banner upon Bergner’s sale to Bon-Ton. 

According to an Amboy Sesquicentennial book, “First 150 Years: 1854-2004,” Carson and Pirie worked as clerks at a store in La Salle before coming to Amboy. When the Illinois Central railroad’s main line was routed through Amboy in 1854, the clerks sought to capitalize on the opportunity to establish their own business in the new town. 

Fortunes were realized, and additional locations were established throughout north-central Illinois. Building on the success of those businesses, Carson and Pirie looked east toward Chicago. They made the move and found even greater success, lessening the emphasis on their earlier stores and eventually closing them. 

The Amboy business was destroyed in an 1864 fire. By that time, Carson and Pirie had firmly established their business in Chicago, and 15 years later built their landmark flagship location on State and Madison streets, which operated until 2006. 

To commemorate the store’s 80th anniversary, in 1934, descendants of the Carson and Pirie families traveled Amboy to visit the site of the original store and gift a stone water fountain – which sits on the grounds of the Amboy Depot Museum. 

After the boom of the Chicago suburbs, Carson Pirie Scott branched out as far as DeKalb, about 45 miles from the original store in Amboy – where a plaque has since been installed noting the original site of the first Carson and Pirie store.

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