Shopko closing remainder of its stores

A Shopko retail store in North Branch, Minn.
A Shopko retail store in North Branch, Minn.
Andrew Krueger | MPR News

Updated: 4:07 p.m. | Posted: 3:40 p.m.

Shopko, a staple of small-town retail from Warroad to Winona, Minn., is closing its doors for good.

The Green Bay, Wis.-based company announced what it called a "full liquidation" on Monday, after failing to find a buyer for stores not already closed or scheduled to close.

"This is not the outcome that we had hoped for when we started our restructuring efforts," CEO Russ Steinhorst said in a statement.

Shopko had 35 stores listed in Minnesota. The company had already indicated it intended to close 15 of them. Twenty others had been listed as remaining open before Monday's announcement.

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David Livingston, a longtime Midwestern retail analyst, said the chain's demise is no surprise.

"They weren't able to offer anything compelling compared to Walmart, Target, Amazon," Livingston said. He said it was another of the concerns added to a retail shakeout hitting businesses big and small.

He also noted creditors have also challenged more than $100 million in dividends paid to equity owners in recent years, reportedly paid with borrowed money. Livingston said he believed management hadn't been seriously interested in emerging from bankruptcy.

It's the fourth round of bad news for Shopko, known for building medium-sized discount stores in locations too small for Target or other big box retailers, but often at the expense of small-town Main Street retailers. The company said it had recently been operating 49 full-sized Shopko stores, each about 80,000 square feet in size, as well as 71 smaller "Hometown" locations from 15,000 to 35,000 square feet.

Shopko originally said it was closing about three dozen stores in December, then upped that number to more than 100 when it formally filed for bankruptcy in January. In February, it expanded its closure list again — to more than 250 of its 363 stores.

According to the company's website, Shopko had previously intended to keep open stores in cities across Minnesota, including Aitkin, Duluth, Ely, Fairmont, Fergus Falls, Glenwood, Luverne, Mankato, Marshall, Moose Lake, Mora, Morris, North Branch, Perham, Pipestone, Rochester, Roseau, Two Harbors, Windom and Winona.

Previously announced closures in Minnesota included locations in Albert Lea, Austin, Cokato, East Grand Forks, Glencoe, Hutchinson, Mahnomen, New Prague, Paynesville, Rochester, St. Cloud, St. James, St. Peter, Warroad and Worthington.

The company was founded in Chicago in 1961 and opened its first location in Green Bay in 1962.

Shopko has hired Gordon Brothers to liquidate its stores, expected to wrap up in 10 to 12 weeks.