One of Casey"s General Stores in Chester will have its last day of operation a week from Sunday, despite an apparent company-wide store expansion program.
Casey"s No. 2, located at 2431 State St. across from Reids" Harvest House, will close at 11 p.m. on Feb. 19, while Casey"s No. 1 - located at 1226 State St. across from Gilster-Mary Lee"s offices - will remain open.
An affected Casey"s employee posted on Facebook Monday afternoon that the business was closing in two weeks and other employees later confirmed that information to the Herald Tribune.
Sources told the newspaper a corporate representative arrived at the store on Monday morning for what was thought by employees to be a routine manager"s meeting. During that meeting, employees were given the news.
Eight employees are believed to be affected by the closure. On Monday evening, a Casey"s employee, Tiffany Domingo, stated in a Facebook post that most of the affected employees were being transferred to Casey"s No. 1.
When contacted for comment Monday afternoon, Casey"s Chief Financial Officer Bill Walljasper said he would accumulate more information and contact the newspaper later with an update.
Sam Jones, director of finance for Casey"s, told the Herald Tribune on Tuesday the company"s reasoning for the closing.
"Just from a financial perspective and sales volumes, it was an under-performing store for us," he said.
Jones did make note of the company having two stores in the city and said that gave the company an opportunity to close the under-performing location.
"We certainly don"t like doing it, we don"t like closing stores, it"s just something we unfortunately have to do," he said. "The nice part of this is we do have a second store in town, so we"re not exiting the market entirely."
Jones also confirmed that all affected employees have been offered other positions in the company, either at Casey"s No. 1 or other Casey"s locations. He was also asked if there would be any changes coming to Casey"s No. 1.
"Nothing at all at this point," he said. "That will continue to operate as-is."
News of the closing caught many people by surprise, including Chester Mayor Tom Page.
"That"s terrible news and I"m in shock," Page said. "I personally went to that Casey"s a lot because it"s on the end of town I live in.
"I feel bad for the employees and it"s just terrible. I"m surprised the city, in some way, was not made aware of this by Casey"s."
According to media reports, Casey"s executives held a conference call with shareholders last month, during which it was reported the company"s second-quarter earnings had dropped 28 percent compared to a year ago.
However, management outlined a series of reasons to remain optimistic this year - including a store expansion program that would increase the company"s store count from 1,941 (as of last quarter) to somewhere around 2,075 by the end of fiscal year 2018.
The company was reported to have 84 sites contracted for new stores, with 15 more stores it was expected to purchase. In addition, another 39 Casey"s stores were under construction and 59 more were in the process of being remodeled or replaced.
Executives also pointed to the success of pizza sales and pizza delivery - which was only offered at Casey"s No. 1 in Chester - as something Casey"s investors could bank on, with more stores being converted to pizza availability this year.
Jones said Casey"s No. 2 will be put up for sale and join stores in El Paso, La Salle, Peru and Metamora as other Illinois locations on the block.
Prices for those other locations ranged from $89,500 to $126,000. If anyone is interested in the Casey"s No. 2 location, contact Amy Hinners at 515-965-6598 or email@example.com.
According to its website, Casey"s also has non-compete deed restrictions for new owners "in regards to the sale of gasoline or other motor fuels; cigarettes, including all electronic cigarettes, and other tobacco products; groceries; alcoholic beverages; or prepared foods, including sub sandwiches, pizza and donuts for a period of 15 years."
Properties will also be sold as-is.