OLEAN — After more than 40 years on West State Street, Olean’s Valu Home Center will be one of three to close this year.
“This was a difficult and emotional decision for our family because we have operated these stores for many years in communities that we have come to know and love,” said Valu Home Centers president and CEO Michael Ervolina Jr. “And while our remaining 38 locations are strong, it was important to make this decision in order to keep our business healthy well into the future.”
Locations in Painted Post and Warren, Pa., will also be closed. Valu’s locations in Bradford, Pa., and Lakewood will remain open.
Employees have been offered positions at the remaining Valu stores, company officials said. No final closure date was announced, but the liquidation sale is set to begin Monday.
“We have an amazing team at each of these locations, and we want to ensure that they have the opportunity to continue as part of the Valu family,” Ervolina said, adding, “We are a strong family owned and operated company, headquartered in Buffalo, NY that carries zero debt. This is one of the key factors that has allowed us remain successful for 51 years.”
Doug Wasiura, vice president of marketing and ecommerce, said that each store typically employs three full-time managers and a mix of around 14 part-time and full-time sales associates.
“(W)e’re happy to say that many of them are staying on after the liquidation sale,” he said. “We’ve also offered an incentive for the employees who stay through the end of the sale, regardless of whether they stay with us at another store or not. We obviously care about all of our employees, and want to be sure they are well taken care of.”
The Olean store, at 2610 W. State St., is owned by Olean Properties LLC, a Buffalo-based corporation under the umbrella of Valu.
Valu opened in Olean in September 1978, according to Times Herald records, the largest of the 17 stores then operated by the chain. Before it moved in, four stores — including Loblaw’s grocery store — occupied the space. Valu spent more than $600,000 to renovate the space at the time, which equates to $2.32 million after adjustment for inflation.
The location was the second in Cattaraugus County, with the store in Yorkshire opening before.
The building was constructed in 1970, and a secondary structure closer to West State Street was built in 2000, according to Cattaraugus County property records. The second structure houses The Hite Company store and M&T Bank. For both buildings, the county estimates the total property taxes of the site in 2020 will be more than $76,000.
The property is adjacent to Holiday Park Center, owned by Park Center Development.
“We do own the buildings in Warren and Olean, and at this point have no specific plans for what will happen after the stores close,” Wasiura said. “Our priority now is the liquidation sale, so we’ll work on that aspect once the stores are closed.”
The Olean, Painted Post and Warren locations — chosen for closure as “underperforming locations” — were removed from the store search on Valu’s website as of Tuesday afternoon.
Competition from other businesses has been tough in the three markets. In Olean, much of Valu’s offerings are available at Worth W. Smith Co. and Close’s Lumber as well as Walmart, Home Depot and Harbor Freight Tools in the town of Allegany. The Painted Post location is 2 miles from stores such as Walmart and Home Depot, while a Lowe’s store is in nearby Big Flats. The Warren location, on Route 62, is near Lowe’s and Walmart stores.
“There is a great deal of competition in those markets,” Wasiura said. “And customer habits have been changing overall in regards to shopping online, delivery, etc. And while the decision to close these stores wasn’t easy, we know that it will help us redirect resources to strengthen our brand and help us build our new eCommerce system. We also have a few new programs we are looking at for 2020 and beyond that will keep us a success.”
The Bradford location, in the former Clark’s Department Store on East Main Street, opened in April 1986 and was the 23rd to open.
“In regards to Bradford, it remains one of our stronger stores, and we are very fortunate to have the amazing customer base we have in that location,” Wasiura said. “It is a location that we are excited about maintaining and operating for many, many years to come.”