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As Moose Lake Shopko closes, 18 workers to lose jobs; residents concerned about options

Lois Olsen chats with an acquaintance while picking up a few things at the Moose Lake Shopko for her sister. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal1 / 3
The Moose Lake Shopko is one of the final Shopko stores to close in the next few months. This location has been open about four years. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal2 / 3
"Didn't I give you a $300 bill?" the customer joked to cashier Marilyn Means at Shopko store in Moose Lake. She didn't miss a beat: "You're $250 short for that." Means had been working at the store for one week and a day. She said she was advised when she was hired that there were changes happening throughout the business. She said she was busy with customers all morning. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal3 / 3

The Moose Lake Shopko Hometown is among the last of the big-box retailer's stores to close as the company heads into bankruptcy.

The location currently has 18 employees, including seven or eight full-time workers. Employees who stay until the June 16 closing will be offered severance packages.

After liquidation begins Thursday, March 21, coupons, other specials and gift certificates for the Moose Lake Shopko will no longer be honored.

The Wisconsin-based retailer has been making the news as it began bankruptcy proceedings after the holidays and closed more than 250 of its 363 stores. The Moose Lake Shopko was one of more than 100 locations still open.

"I took the conference call and then I called all my people before it hit the news," Moose Lake store manager Dave Loose said. "I didn't want them to find out like that."

Employees were notified at about 11 a.m. Monday, March 18, and read it in online news reports shortly after.

"This is devastating for the community," assistant manager Lisa Petersen said Tuesday, March 19. "We carry a little bit of everything — groceries, furniture, name-brand clothes and flowers in the spring.

"I took phone calls all day yesterday from people calling to ask if we are really closing," she said.

Moose Lake, a city of approximately 2,800 residents approximately 26 miles southwest of Cloquet, has a supermarket and a dollar store.

Moose Lake residents Nancy Timonen and Phyllis Minser said inside the Shopko on Tuesday that they will now need to travel further to shop.

"It's terrible — we need this in Moose Lake," Minser said. "I come here at least once a week."

They said they like how they can purchase almost everything they need in one stop.

"I really like it in the spring when I get my flowers here," Timonen said. "We don't have any options unless we go to Cloquet. When you're 85 years old, you're not going to traipse around the country very much."

Barnum resident Lois Olsen stops to pick up a few necessities and snacks when she visits her sister in a nearby nursing home.

"It's sad," Olsen said. "It's harder for older people to get out. As a matter of fact, I don't drive as much as I used to either."

As Olsen pushed her cart around the corner of an aisle, a surprised shopper greeted Olsen and asked how she is doing as they caught up for several minutes.

Petersen, who remembers when Shopko bought out the Alco — a similar big-box discount chain, which closed all of its stores in 2015 — hopes another store will fill the empty space.

"We have a good location," Petersen said. "And a good team."

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