Hastings to shut down Ninth Avenue store in September

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WALLA WALLA — Hastings, the all-encompassing entertainment store that brought video, music, gaming and books under one roof, is closing a chapter on its Ninth Avenue business.

The business will close its doors next month after eight years in Walla Walla, operators say.

Employees received official notice that the last day will be Sept. 8 or 9 in a meeting this morning. The closure was confirmed by Hastings Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Dan Crow, who declined to comment further until the company’s official announcement is released.

The announcement was to have been made public this morning. However, it did not arrive by press time.

Employees said a sale begins today.

The closure will affect employment for nearly 20 people, they said. For the community, it means the end of an all-in-one brick-and-mortar multimedia entertainment retailer. Other outlets in the community offer books, games, videos and music independently. Video rentals have become noticeably harder to come by after the closure several years ago of Blockbuster.

Employees this morning said they were told the local Hastings store isn’t meeting financial expectations. That reason was also given for other Hastings closures announced this year.

A store in Fayetteville, Ark., was shuttered in June. The residents of Duncan, Okla., will lose their store Aug. 9. The Duncan Banner reported in that community the store was one of six corporatewide to be closed this year to make up for losses seen in sales.

Since its Walla Walla opening the company’s retail outlets have been reduced by at least 15 stores.

Amarillo, Texas,-based Hastings Enterainment Inc. opened in the 16,500-square-foot space at 617 S. Ninth Ave. in 2005 with 29,000 book titles and nearly 14,000 CDs and cassettes, plus thousands of videotapes and DVDs for rent and sale.

At the time the company, founded in 1968, was operating about 150 stores with a strong presence in the Midwest.

Hastings has also embraced buybacks of used items and tapped into a market for selling its video rentals. The repurchase and sale of pre-owned items is reflected in the company’s mission to “help our communities discover and recycle their entertainment.”

The proliferation of online sales through sites such as Amazon and Netflix, plus purchasing programs for digital music, has long been attributed to the changing landscape for traditional entertainment retail venues.

Today Hastings Entertainment Inc. operates about 135 stores, according to its website.

Dillon McDonald, who’s been working at the store for one year, said weekends have remained busy. Though signs of an impending closure have been visible over the last few weeks, he was shaken by the news and unsure of where to go for work.

“It was a pretty tight-knit group here,” he said.

The closure will come right around what would have been the three-year anniversary for employee Spencer Neiffer, who happened to pick up a second job recently that will now transition to his only job.

Neiffer wasn’t sure this morning whether he was more disappointed by the loss of the job or the loss of the store in the community.

“I’m a shopper here, too,” he said. “It’s had its ups and downs, but I enjoyed this place.”

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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