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Bergners 2 4.18.18

The Bergner’s store at the Hickory Point Mall is shown in April. The location is closing Thursday. 

FORSYTH — As going-out-of business sales continue at former Bergner's stores, including Hickory Point Mall's in Forsyth, the stores' unexpired leases are among nearly 230 Bon-Ton-owned and leased properties that are being sold.

A & G Realty Partners is disposing of all of of the bankrupt retailer's real estate assets, which include stores and leases in 23 states. In addition to Bergner's, Bon-Ton operated stores under the brand names of Carson's, Elder-Beerman, Herberger's, Boston Store, Younkers and Bon-Ton.

"It's not a fire sale," said A & G Co-President Andy Grasier. "This a lot of good real estate creating a lot of opportunity for different types of investments.

"We want to make sure we give the real estate every opportunity to be marketed, and we can sell it at the right price."

Madison Miller of Mount Zion was among those who visited the Forsyth Bergner’s on Tuesday to browse the sales. Both the interior and exterior of the two-story department store were adorned with signs stating that it was closing and that everything must go.

Miller, who doesn’t shop at Bergner’s often, said some of the discounts inside ranged from 25 percent off up to 90 percent off. “Everything’s really cheap, and there’s still a lot of stuff inside,” she said.

Bon-Ton has said that the liquidation process of all of its stores should take about 10 or 12 weeks to complete. However, some stores could stay open longer or close earlier depending on sales and inventory levels.

An employee at Bergner’s in Forsyth declined to comment Tuesday on the store’s liquidation progress. Bon-Ton did not respond to a request for comment on the issue Tuesday afternoon.

The Melville, N.Y-based A & G was hired by a joint venture between Great American Group LLC, Tiger Captial Group LLC and Bon-Ton's Second Lien Noteholders.

The joint venture acquired the bankrupt retailer's assets on April 18 after submitting the winning bid to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. 

Chattanooga-based CBL Properties owns Hickory Point Mall and both Eastland Mall in Bloomington, where Bon-Ton leased spaces for its Bergner's stores.

They are among 194 leases that A & G plan to auction off in late June. The lease for the Carson's store at the Cross County Mall in Mattoon, which is owned by Rural King, also is on the auction list.

Stacey Keating, a spokeswoman for the mall owner, said the company is still working on plans to redevelop the former Bon-Ton properties to bring in new uses.

The auction is part of the normal bankruptcy liquidation process, she said. 

"Anyone that steps into the leases would be party to all of the term of the lease," said Keating, adding that CBL does not disclose specific store rent information.

Grasier said the leases are standard, and the new buyer would simply take them over. 

"Everything is 'as is,'" Grasier said. "Whatever the terms of the lease are the new buyer would have to live with."  

But if an interested party wants additional terms, A & G will work with the landlords to try to get them, said Grasier.

If a lease gets no bids at the auction, it will be rejected and returned to the landlord, he added.

The Forsyth Bergner's is listed at 125,455 square feet with a lease ending Jan. 31, 2020 and two five-year options that could extend the lease to 2030.

The minimal cost, or cure cost, which A & G listed as $10,833 for the Forsyth Bergner's, would have to be "satisfied as part of the amount owned to the landlord and sale of the lease.

"If someone is going to just take care of the cure cost, we have no interest in dealing with that buyer," said Graiser.  "We have to sell the lease where they are taking care of the cure cost and writing a check to us in order to take over the lease.

Jaylyn Cook of the Herald & Review contributed to this story. 

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Contact Maria Nagle at (309) 820-3244. Follow her on Twitter: @Pg_Nagle


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