Mervyns founder discusses bankruptcy with The Sun

     Mervyn Morris isn’t surprised the company he founded in 1949 filed for bankruptcy on Tuesday.
     Even more interesting: the filing was made on the same date that Mervyns opened its first store in San Lorenzo 59 years ago.
     “That smarts,” Morris said over the phone on Wednesday. “It’s ironic.”
     Almost all of us have walked out of the iconic department store at one time in our lives with bags stuffed full of discounted clothes and other goodies on sale.
     Morris headed Mervyns until 1978, when Dayton Hudson Corp. bought the company. Dayton Hudson eventually became Target Corp.
     The ten Mervyns stores doing business across San Bernardino and Riverside counties could be on the chopping block, but spokesman Andrew Siegel said the company hasn’t announced what stores, if any, will shut their doors.
     Siegel wouldn’t speculate on whether or not the Mervyns store slated for Inland Center Mall in San Bernardino will open in October as planned.
     Could the plan go bust?
     “Anything is possible,” Siegel said.
     Meanwhile, construction is continuing on the Inland Center building that Mervyns said it would move into, according to Arun Parmar, senior property manager of the mall.
     Macerich Co., a Santa Monica real-estate company, owns and manages the mall.
     Wachovia Capital Finance Corp. is lending Mervyns LLC $465 million to keep the company on its legs while chartering the bankruptcy process.
     Several private equity firms, including Cerberus Capital Management and Sun Capital Partners Inc., bought Mervyns from Target Corp. in 2004 through a partnership.
     Mervyns LLC might be going bankrupt, but the partnership made millions of dollars from selling off several real-estate holdings.
     In Morris’s opinion, the CEOs behind Mervyns “lost their focus,” and at the same time “they devoted all their energy to Target.”
     “Mervyns went through a whole series of management changes,” Morris said. “One CEO would throw out lady’s dresses, while another one said they needed more cosmetics. Then the next one would bring lady’s dresses back. One decided they should compete with Kohl’s, and the other decided they should compete with Wal-Mart.”
     Morris now owns and operates a family investment firm in Menlo Park called Morris Management Co.
     Macerich — which also owns The Mall of Victor Valley and the Mervyns storefront there — bought 43 Mervyns buildings in December, with 13 of them in their own malls.
     Mervyns laid off almost 200 workers at its Ontario distribution warehouse in April, saying it would save millions of dollars by outsourcing to a third-party logistics vendor.
     Mervyns moved into its 650,000 square-foot Ontario warehouse in the mid-1990s. It serves as the cargo hub for stores in Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas and Utah.
     –matthew.wrye@inlandnewspapers.com

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