Business goes into receivership; inventory to be liquidated
“We did close the store. It’s unfortunate, but we felt that receivership is the best direction and the inventory will be liquidated.” Jim Prince, Family Spokesman, Prince’s Center in Oroville
OROVILLE – After nearly closing at the end of 2015, then trying to “right the ship” for the past few months, Hughes’ Department Store closed it’s doors for good Wednesday, March 23.
Employees learned the previous day in a letter from the business’ owners, Jack and Mary Hughes, that the retail clothing, sporting goods and hardware store, which leased the building from the Prince family at Prince’s Center, was closing and that Tuesday was their final day.
“We did close the store,” said Jim Prince, spokesman for the family which owns the Prince’s Center building on Highway 97 at the north end of Oroville, as well as the Warehouse, on Ironwood Street.
“It’s unfortunate that Hughes’ is closed, but we felt that receivership is the best direction and the inventory will be liquidated,” said Prince that Wednesday.
“For the past 78 years the store has been a big part of the local community as well as a big employer. We are going forward to try and find another business which will be a good fit with Harvest Foods,” said Prince, adding, “Our major concern is for the community and the employees.”
In February of 2011 the Prince family sold Prince’s Department Store, Ace Hardware and the warehouse business to Jack and Mary Hughes while retaining the building. The business continued to offer many of the same products, but the couple made several changes to the store giving it a new look and eventually renaming it Hughes’ Department Store. The Prince’s Center Building is a large ‘L’ and Hughes was on the north, while Akins Harvest Foods occupies the south end. Akin’s Harvest Foods, an independent grocery chain, started business in the other half of the building in late 2012. While the department store is closed, the grocery remains open.
Prince said he had no “hard feelings, none at all” regarding the couple.
“We worked awfully hard with them, I’ve been home trying to work something out for the last six or seven months, but we do feel receivership is our best step. We will start work with the receivers in the next few days for final liquidation.”
On Wednesday, March 23, Jack and Mary Hughes made the announcement to their customers on the business’ Facebook page, posting, “We would like to thank everyone who has shopped with us at Hughes Department Store. We have tried everything possible to keep the store open for our employees and customers. The Prince family will be taking over. The department store will be closed until they can get everything ready to close out. It was a privilege to serve you all.”
Some of Hughes’ employees will remain at work helping with the liquidation, according to Prince and as of last Tuesday morning the business was open and it looked like business as usual. In addition to several familiar faces working the floor, Jim and Marilyn Prince, familiar sights in the old Prince’s Department Store days, could be seen helping out with the sale.
Last December Jack Hughes announced they were going to have to close due to several factors, including the summer fires and low Canadian dollar, even bird flu. However, working with the Prince family the store decided to give it another go. The low Canadian dollar and the inability to bring chicken from grocery stores in the U.S. into Canada, slowed cross border traffic affecting the stores bottom line, according to Hughes. Then the Okanogan Complex Fires during the summer of 2015 led to fewer tourists coming to the area due to the smoke, which further hurt sales. The fires also affected the Hughes’ other business, Discount Fireworks, as communities and counties throughout the state banned fireworks sales, according to Hughes.
Princes Inc. filed for relief in Okanogan County Superior Court on Wednesday, March 16 against Hughes Inc. seeking a “receiver, money damages and related relief in connection with a loan made by the Plaintiff to Defendant Hughes, Inc., according to court documents. The loan of $2,122,687.66 was made by Princes Inc. to finance the purchase price of the business as evidenced by a Promissory Note effective Feb. 1, 2011. The note “is secured by the Security Agreement in certain Collateral that was granted by the Borrower to the Plaintiff…. The borrower is at default,” state court documents.
Prince’s was founded in 1933 by Jim and Ben Prince’s father, Ben F. Prince, in a store called Ben Prince Thrifty Store on Main Street (currently the south half of the Pastime Bar & Grill) in Oroville. The business had groceries on the main floor and dry goods on the second floor. In 1958, the elder Prince relocated and expanded the store to Ironwood Street (now the warehouse location). Jim Prince joined his father in the business in 1963. Prince’s then expanded to occupy two buildings, including Prince’s IGA at their Ironwood Street location. The shopping center was constructed and the business was relocated to its current location on the north end of Oroville on Highway 97 in 1978.