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Pamida closing Saturday due to economy

Park Rapids Pamida is one of 11 stores scheduled to close. The Detroit Lakes and Wadena sites will also shut down. Sales performance numbers drove the decision, according to a spokesperson at Omaha corporate headquarters. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

After 30 years in business, the Park Rapids Pamida discount store will be closing Saturday.

The decision "boils down to economics," said Dean Williamson, vice president of human resources at the Omaha corporate office. "It's a sign of the times."

Sales performance numbers drove the decision, he said. "It's more costly to keep the store open than closed."

Pamida stores in Detroit Lakes and Wadena will also close. Wadena's store will remain open until Feb. 14 but the Detroit Lakes Pamida will also close at week's end.

The Park Rapids site's approximately 20 employees learned of the decision Friday.

The three stores are among 11 that will close. Pamida has 215 department stores in 17 states.

There will be no liquidation of inventory; the products will be moved to another store, Williamson said. Current Park Rapids employees will be asked to remain with the store for the next two to three weeks to assist with the transition.

Pamida's practice is to provide severance pay, he said, including part-time employees.

"This is no reflection on the store team," Williamson emphasized.

The Park Rapids store "goes back to Pamida's origins," he said. The store opened in its current location in October 1978.

Pamida had its beginnings as a service merchandise business, founded in 1948 by Jim Witherspoon and Lee Wegener. The two opened their first retail outlet in Knoxville, Iowa in 1963 as part of the Gibson Products Company. The stores expanded throughout the Midwest, including Park Rapids. Main street was home to a Gibson's about 40 years ago.

By the 1970s, the stores were no longer associated with Gibson Products and became known as Pamida. The Detroit Lakes Pamida opened in 1974 and Wadena's opened in 1972, Williamson said.

In 2006, the Park Rapids store went through a sale-lease transaction, he said, with Pamida leasing the building on Highway 34 from Spirit Finance Corporation. Pamida still holds the lease contract.

The private investment firm Sun Capital Partners, Inc. owns Pamida.