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Goodbye Paul’s, farewell University Camera, so long Sears: Notable business closings in 2018


University Camera, Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

There were major changes to the retail landscape of the Iowa City/Cedar Rapids area in 2018 as long-standing businesses closed their doors for the last time. Neither a specialized business like University Camera or Family Video, nor the store where you could find almost anything, Paul’s, were immune from the major shifts in the retail world over recent decades.

Roger Christian, who owned University Camera for 48 years, described the last several years as a small business owner as “death by a thousand cuts.” But it wasn’t just small businesses that shut down in 2018. Sears, which once dominated the national retail scene, closed its last area store. The store was one of the original stores at Lindale Mall, which opened in 1960. After its closure, the only original store left at the Cedar Rapids mall was Younkers. Younkers also closed in 2018.

Family Video in Iowa City, Jan. 31, 2018. — Emma McClatchey/Little Village

Family Video is closing

Family Video was Iowa City’s last video store.

Like other video store chains, Family Video has seen a decline in business during the last two decades, but it is still doing better than Blockbuster Video. Blockbuster, which was once the dominant national chain of video stores with more than 2,000 stores, currently has only eight stores — one in Oregon and the remaining seven in Alaska. [read more]

Paul’s Discount in Iowa City, April 2, 2018. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

Paul’s is closing

The slogan “If you can’t find it at Paul’s, then you don’t need it,” is familiar to generations of Iowa Citians.

“It’s not your regular big box chain-type retail store. It has a special place in this community,” said John Balmer, who was mayor of Iowa City when Paul’s opened in 1981. “They had this unique ability to have the products that nobody else would carry.” [read more]

Roger Christian at University Camera, 4 S Dubuque St, in March 2018. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

‘Death by a thousand cuts’: University Camera is closing after 48 years

University Camera, which opened in 1970, was the last full-service camera store in Johnson County and one of a handful of such stores still remaining in the Midwest.

“We’re the last place in Iowa City that develops film in-house,” Roger Christian said. “When we close, black-and-white processing is gone. Color processing is gone. Slide scanning is gone. Large format flatbed scanning is gone. Memory card recovery is gone.”

Most importantly, the store’s staff, who collectively have well over a century’s worth of experience in photography, will be gone. [read more]

Illustration by Jordan Sellegren

The last Sears in the area is closing

Sears was once one of the dominant forces in retail in the United States, selling everything from socks to entire ready-to-assemble houses. (The DIY houses were sold between 1908 and 1940, and the mail-order catalogue for Sears in the early 1900s assured customers “a man of average abilities could assemble a Sears kit home in about 90 days.”) But the retailer has faced a sharp and steady decline since the 1990s, as Walmart expanded and shopping started to move online. Between 2007 and 2017, the company’s revenue declined by 50 percent and announcements of multiple store closings have become routine. [read more]

Younkers at Lindale Mall in Cedar Rapids, April 17, 2018. — Jav Ducker/Little Village

Younkers is closing its last two area stores

The Younkers brothers opened their first store — a general store in Keokuk — in 1862. Twelve years later, the brothers opened a dry goods store in Des Moines, which grew into a full-service department store and served as the flagship store for a growing chain across Iowa.

The announcement that Younkers will close is the second blow to Lindale Mall in less than a week. On Thursday it was announced that the mall’s Sears will close. Sears and Younkers worked together to open the mall in northeast Cedar Rapids in 1960, and are Lindale’s only remaining original stores. [read more]


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