Magnolia Audio Video is closing its Santa Rosa store and will lay off about 20 employees, becoming the latest merchant to close its doors in Sonoma County.

The high-end electronics retailer, located on Santa Rosa Avenue, informed employees Thursday that the store will close Feb. 26. All positions will be eliminated.

Magnolia, which is owned by Best Buy, is shuttering seven of its 13 stores nationally, including outlets in Emeryville, Palo Alto and Roseville. The company?s headquarters in Washington will be closed and folded into Best Buy?s headquarters in Minnesota.

The Magnolia store in San Ramon will remain open, as will 350 mini-stores operated under the Magnolia brand inside Best Buy outlets across the country.

The Best Buy in Santa Rosa store has a small Magnolia kiosk, but it remains unclear if Magnolia customers will be able to return purchases to Best Buy.

Magnolia becomes the latest retailer to shutter its Sonoma County store, joining Circuit City, Mervyns, Linens ?n Things, Shoe Pavilion, Home Depot Yardbirds, Sharper Image and KB Toys.

Magnolia specialized in top-tier audio, video, automobile stereo and home theater systems. Sales of pricey home theater systems have sagged as consumers pull back on spending, forcing the company to cut costs, said Sue Busch, a spokeswoman for Best Buy.

On average, sales of consumer electronics at all Best Buy-owned stores dropped 13.7 percent during the nine-month period ending Dec. 1. Profits tumbled 35 percent, compared to same period a year earlier.

?The store closings, while painful, are necessary to bring Magnolia?s expenses in line with lagging home theater sales,? Busch said. ?The decision announced today will enable the company to survive these difficult times, and thrive when the economy improves.?

The Richfield, Minn., company operated 973 Best Buy stores and 13 Magnolia stores in the United States on Dec. 1, according to its most recent public earnings report.

Despite the challenging economy, the company still has plans to expand the Magnolia brand. It expects to open a Magnolia store in Chicago this year.

Magnolia employees in Santa Rosa will be paid until the end of March, Busch said, and Best Buy will pay for COBRA benefits ? health and dental ? as well as life insurance and job assistance.

The manager of the Magnolia store in Santa Rosa, Jeffrey Thorne, declined to comment on the closure.

Magnolia Hi-Fi was started in Seattle in 1954 by Len Tweten as Magnolia Stationers and Camera Shop. It remained family-owned, but by the mid 1960s it had changed its name and its line of merchandise, shifting to top-quality home electronics equipment.

Best Buy acquired the company ? and its 13 stores ? from Tweten?s son Jim for $87 million in 2000.

The 13,000-square-foot store in Santa Rosa opened in 2002 across the parking lot from Best Buy, which opened in 1996.

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