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Giant Tiger store going out of business

TIMES STAFF WRITER
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POTSDAM — Giant Tiger will close July 3 after five years in the Hacketts Plaza.


"It is unfortunate that we are closing our doors. We have very much enjoyed serving the community of Potsdam and St. Lawrence County. However, our lease is ending and we have decided to close the store," Giant Tiger spokeswoman Tracy Tuttle said in a statement.


The Canadian discount store that employs 13 in Potsdam has signs in its windows advertising a liquidation sale.


"Our decision to close the store in Potsdam is based on many factors, including the introduction of strong competition to the area and an uncertain economy," said David Thorpe, Giant Tiger's vice president of marketing.


Giant Tiger is a family-oriented discount chain that offers low-cost clothing, groceries, furniture and kitchenware. Founded in 1961, the company has 195 locations across Canada and continues to expand.


"This is a terrible loss to the Potsdam community," Potsdam Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Brenda L. Thornton said. "They especially served elderly residents, and were such staunch supporters of the Potsdam Humane Society and everything the chamber has done."


Giant Tiger's sales took a hit when the Walmart Supercenter opened on Route 11 last summer, but the store revamped its merchandise to be more competitive, Ms. Thornton said.


"I don't think it had anything to do with Walmart at all. They totally redid the store and the sales have not slacked too much," she said. "Given the state of the economy and the general flux of retail operations in that plaza, I think they thought it was time to cut their losses."


This was Giant Tiger's only U.S. store. When it opened in 2004, 180 people interviewed for 40 available positions.


"We had very high hopes for their success in our community. We regret we weren't able to help them," village Planning and Development Director Frederick J. Hanss said. "Any time we lose a business, we all feel for the people affected. I think they came to the U.S. with high hopes."


An official who didn't want to be named said that Giant Tiger was worried about renewing its lease in the plaza if Hacketts ends up going under.


Hacketts, Giant Tiger's neighbor in the former Ames Plaza, helped bring the chain to Potsdam and managed the store at first.


The department store chain that started in Ogdensburg was purchased by Seaway Valley Capital Corp. in November 2007 and was forced into involuntary bankruptcy by several creditors in April. That bankruptcy later was dismissed in court, but the company remains in a struggle to pay off its debts.


The Potsdam Chamber of Commerce also has decided to cancel the Outer Market Mania portion of its Summerfest this year, mostly because of the Giant Tiger closing and uncertainty about Hacketts. Those stores normally lead a host of events for the weekend celebration.


Ms. Thornton said that if one of the other outer Market Street businesses wants to participate in the festival, the chamber will move those activities downtown.

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