Business

Pulling the plug on Circuit City

The pickings were slim at the Circuit City store on Sir Barton Way in Lexington on Sunday. Things like batteries, cables, and cases for MP3 players and iPods were just about all that was left.

Only a few of the employees were left, too, and some of the red-shirted workers were taking frequent breaks outside the front of the store.

One group of employees went to lunch not long after they'd gotten to work. "Hey, they just got here!" exclaimed a co-worker.

There was probably no chance they'd get fired, though.

It was the store's last day — the last day for all remaining Circuit City stores across the nation. The one-time blockbuster electronics chain was another casualty of a faltering U.S. economy.

Outside Lexington's last remaining Circuit City, at Hamburg Place, were large, predominantly red and yellow signs with such phrases as "Entire Store on Sale!" and "Everything Must Go!"

Inside, among the few remaining employees and customers, a tall, white-haired man in a purple shirt named Richard roamed the store's mainly empty-shelved aisles, a cell phone to his ear. He was the liquidator, a man who was all business and who had an obvious disdain for the news media. He told a reporter and a photographer to leave the store just a few minutes after they got there.

Lexington's other Circuit City, on Nicholasville Road, closed late last year, after the Richmond, Va.-based chain declared bankruptcy.

"It's upsetting, but times are tough," said sales manager Caleb Harding, who had worked at the Hamburg store since last June. "This is a good place to work, and something to put on a résumé."

Some of the 20 or so workers — there were about 75 employees at the store's peak and about 100 during the winter holiday seasons — already had other employment lined up. Others had scheduled job interviews at places like HH Gregg, Best Buy, Family Dollar and Macy's.

Mike Terry, store director of the Hamburg store, had been with the company for 17 years, working in California, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., before coming to Lexington. He said he planned on being a full-time dad for a while.

"The company was always good to me," said Terry, who worked at 11 Circuit City stores in all. "Retail's not the safest sector right now. I was telling my wife maybe this is the gentle nudge I need to get out of retail."

Part-time customer service worker Sarah Boyd said she was still putting together her résumé.

"I don't know where to go. Retail's hurting," she said, while standing outside among a group of co-workers. She said she might try restaurant work; she has worked at a couple of restaurants in the past.

"I'm going to miss the people. I love these guys," she added.

Boyd, who has a 2-year-old son and a 10-year-old stepson, said that her husband, a master mechanic, was putting in extra hours to help make up for the loss of her paycheck.

"My husband's working his butt off now supporting us," she said.

For Circuit City employee Bryan Pearl, the store's closing meant more than losing a job.

"I've got tons of customers that are loyal to me," he said.

While employees were lamenting the loss of their jobs, Circuit City customers were expressing disappointment in the lack of bargains. Although all of the merchandise was advertised as being 50 to 90 percent off, there just wasn't that much to buy.

"I was hearing they had those flat panel TVs half off," said customer Sylvester Bennett. "I don't see anything in here."

Customer Niki Wills was looking for an iPod touch, but none were to be found.

"I'm sure they're long gone," she said.

The store was supposed to be open for business from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., but by 1:40 p.m. employees were already rolling up the going-out-of-business signs.

  Comments