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Mervyns at Santa Rosa Plaza.

Kohl's acquires 31 Mervyns stores

Kohl?s Department Stores has acquired 31 leases of bankrupt Mervyns stores, including locations in Ukiah, Napa, San Rafael and Eureka, it said Friday.

The fate of Mervyns locations in Santa Rosa and Petaluma remains up in the air, however.

The Mervyns chain is expected to close all of its stores after Christmas.

Kohl?s joined forces with retailer Forever 21 Inc. to assume 46 Mervyns leases, representing nearly a third of the bankrupt chain?s 149 locations. They paid about $6.25 million at a bankruptcy auction Wednesday.

The deal must still be approved by the court overseeing Mervyns bankruptcy.

Kohl?s plans to open in most of the former Mervyns locations in 2009, but there are no specific dates yet, said Kohl?s spokeswoman Elizabeth Deluca.

?These locations provide increased presence in under-penetrated markets,? said Kevin Mansell, president and CEO of Kohl?s. ?We will continue to be opportunistic and prudent in our discussions with the owners of select Mervyns real estate as we continue to position Kohl?s to grow market share.?

Kohl?s already has stores in Santa Rosa and Petaluma. The middle-market retailer based in Menomoneee Falls, Wisconsin has 1,004 stores in 48 states.

Officials of Mervyns stores in Santa Rosa and Petaluma couldn?t be reached for comment Friday, but bankruptcy court records indicated the leases for those locations still are held by Mervyns.

Simon Property Group, which owns the Santa Rosa Plaza where Mervyns is an anchor, didn?t return a call seeking comment Friday.

Hayward-based Mervyns abandoned efforts to emerge from bankruptcy in October and announced plans to shut down all of its stores after the holidays.

The 59-year-old retailer said it would liquidate its remaining inventory at discount sales by the end of the year and shutter its remaining 149 stores, including those in Santa Rosa and Petaluma. The closures will affect 102 employees in Santa Rosa and 76 employees in Petaluma, according to a notice filed with state labor department.

Mervyns has been closing stores since 2005, after a consortium of private equity players including Sun Capital Partners Inc. bought Mervyns from Target Corp. for $1.2 billion.

Mervyns tried to restructure its debt in July, seeking protection from its creditors by filing Chapter 11 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware. At that time, the company said it would keep its stores open while it worked on a turnaround plan.

In October, the company said it wasn?t feasible to reorganize.

Mervyns opened it first Sonoma County store in Petaluma in 1972. It followed with a store in Santa Rosa?s Montgomery Village Shopping Center in 1976. That store moved downtown when Santa Rosa Plaza opened in 1982.

The 15 Mervyns locations acquired by Forever 21 are in Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Texas. Los Angeles-based Forever 21 is a trendy fashion retailer that caters to women and junior girls. It has more than 400 stores, mostly in malls.

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