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McCrory will close its doors, end an era

Come April 10, McCrory in Seminole Mall will have sold its last batch of boric acid to a disgruntled homeowner with ants.

There will be no more home decor sold for chump change.

The last Diggety Dog Combo at the lunch counter already has been served.

McCrory is closing after 27 years in the mall, and loyal workers and customers say the area will lose more than a store with a good deal on bath towels.

The day McCrory shuts its doors, they say, will be the end of the true dime-store era.

"This is like the original with the soda fountain, the kind of thing that you just don't have any more," said Debby Barankin, who has worked here for six years. "When we close, there's not going to be any more."

Barankin and others think that modern discount stores, such as Wal-Mart and Target, fall short of McCrory's bargains and hometown atmosphere. Now, with markdowns of at least 50 percent and store shelves topped with little more than dust, some say they will have to adjust their lives.

"They made the best New England clam chowder that you could eat," said Alta Winans, a 90-year-old Seminole resident who has shopped here for years.

This is where she would come to get a good hairnet, Winans said. "It really was a good place for everything. It was like a hardware store."

Said Joy Mason: "I patronize this joint, put it that way. I'll miss it."

The women said they will rely on other small restaurants and stores for bargains. Kmart, also in the mall, will have to do.

The choice is not so simple for McCrory employees, however.

Barankin and store manager Gail Grosvenor, who has worked for the store its entire 27 years, said they did not know what they would do. Corporate offices announced in January that days were numbered here. The close is part of a decision to shut McCrory stores nationwide, Grosvenor said. The chain boasted 800 locations four years ago, but executives plan to cut that number to 160 before long, she said.

Whether Seminole Mall plans a replacement store is unknown. A mall executive did not return repeated calls to her office.

Mall management has said the aim was to bring in stores for young people and to continue offering popular activities for residents. To that end, mall executives brought in Kmart and Beall's department store and directed a $6-million renovation in 1991, adding skylights and floor tile. More recently, Byrons gave way to Upton's, Kmart expanded and the mall added live theater.

At least four stores are empty. McCrory will soon join them. Shielding vacant storefronts, the mall installs a blockade: "Coming soon, another fine store."

Despite a countdown to the close, some employees here have not found other work, nor tried.

Barankin said she didn't want to look for a job because she couldn't be sure when McCrory would close. Although the official date is April 10, closing depends on when the merchandise is all gone. Goods are going so fast, the store may not last that long. Barankin wanted to make sure she could stay until the bitter end.

She will miss many of the regular customers, Barankin said, especially those who came to the lunch counter, which closed three weeks ago. You couldn't beat the $1.99 Good Morning Special with coffee, she said.

Grosvenor has no definite employment plans.

"I don't know what I'm going to do," she said. "Come the day that we close, you'll probably see me crying."