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New store to boost Flushing

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Federated...

By Chris Fuchs

Stern’s Department Store on Roosevelt Avenue in downtown Flushing will be converted into a Macy’s store sometime this summer, ushering in a new era for the bustling shopping district with the arrival of two upscale national retail chains.

Federated Department Stores Inc., which operates more than 400 retail stores in 33 states, including Stern’s, Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, announced last week that 17 of its 24 Stern’s outlets in New York and New Jersey, including two in northern Queens, were to be turned into Macy’s.

The two Queens Stern’s — one in Flushing and the other in Douglaston — are to be converted into Macy’s East stores by mid-year and will be remodeled after the higher-end retailer, Federated officials said.

In recent years, upscale retailers such as the Gap and Old Navy have branched out into the Queens, Brooklyn and the other boroughs.

In downtown Flushing, Old Navy, which is owned by Gap Inc., was expected to open a store on the corner of Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue sometime this spring, joining the ranks of others that have moved into Whitestone and Long Island City.

A spokeswoman for Gap Inc. did not return a phone call by Tuesday night seeking further details about the project.

Fred Fu, the president of the Flushing Chinese Business Association, said the transformation of Stern’s into Macy’s illustrates the high marketability of real estate in Flushing.

“No doubt, Flushing is very attractive,” Fu said. “I think it is very good. I’ve lived here for 20 years — we want the quality to go up not go down.”

Unlike Caldor’s, another department store in Flushing that has remained vacant for at least two years, Stern’s is expected to seamlessly assume the Macy’s name.

The new Macy’s will have a ready base of customers with the No. 7 subway stop the busiest outside Manhattan and the Long Island Rail Road station just two blocks away.

The demise of Stern’s, Flushing’s only remaining department store, has received mixed reactions from customers who have recognized the outlet for its reliable and well-priced middle market merchandise.

“This store gives you the best value for my age group,” said one elderly woman who refused to give her age or her name, other than to say she was “a prominent woman” from Co-op City in the Bronx. “I’ll tell you the truth, now I’ll go to New Jersey.”

Another older woman, who identified herself only as Mrs. Schilero of Jackson Heights, repeated the other woman’s sentiment. “I like Stern’s very much,” she said, while rummaging through a bin of handbags on sale. “I don’t like how Macy’s is.”

But some customers welcomed the conversion, saying that they prefer shopping at Macy’s in Manhattan because of the higher quality of merchandise sold there.

“Macy’s is better than Stern’s,” declared one gruff-sounding woman, who also refused to give her name.

At the Stern’s in Douglaston, customers seemed more rueful about the news of the change.

“I’ve lived here for 40 years,” said Seth Greenberger, a resident of Bayside. “Nothing seems to flourish in this spot. It’s going to be missed.”

The decision to close the Stern’s chain was done to improve cash flow and return on investment, Zimmerman said, in the statement. Federated officials said the conversion will cost between $130 and $150 million, with as much as half of that amount being financed through the sale of Stern’s stores that are to be closed permanently.

The officials said five stores are expected to close in August, four of which are in Long Island and the other in New Jersey.

The roughly 4,800 employees of the 17 stores that are to remain open will keep their jobs, but it was unclear what will happen to the remaining 2,600 who work at those scheduled to close, officials said.

<i>— Kathianne Boniello contributed to this story</i>

Reach reporter Chris Fuchs by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

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