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Jeff Fox on business: Independence J.C. Penney set to close

Staff Writer
The Examiner
The Examiner

The J.C. Penney store 17610 E. 39th St. in Independence is among more than 150 set to close. The company has had a presence in Independence – on the Square, then the old Blue Ridge Mall, then the 39th Street retail area – for decades.

The company filed for bankruptcy last month and is closing 242 stores in an attempt to turn things around.

It says the closures will leave it with about 600 stores. The company announced the first 154 of the 242 to be closed last week. Independence was the only one of the seven metro stores on the list. Other locations remaining open, at least for now, include Summit Fair in Lee’s Summit.

The 154 stores are to be closed by the end of September.

Quick hits

Miller Theatres-Blue Springs 8 has reopened with “Aquaman” and other movies. The major movie studios have said they might resume releasing movies later this summer. Blue Springs 8 opened Friday and says it’s the only movie theater in the area to have reopened since closing in March because of the pandemic. It’s open Friday through Sunday and is asking customers to do a few things in the name of safety: Reserve your seats online, show up no more than 15 minutes before showtime, wear a mask in the lobby, and leave seats between groups in the theater. It says employees will wear masks and will sanitize constantly. Jackson County is currently limiting theaters to using 50 percent of their capacity, and Miller 8 says it’s abiding by that. … An Aldi grocery store is under construction on U.S. 40 in Independence, just west of Sterling Avenue and across from V’s Italiano Ristorante. No word from the company on when it opens. … The Independence ReStore, 505 N. Dodgion St., has reopened. The Blue Springs store opened a few weeks ago. Both have been run for several years by the Truman Heritage chapter of Habitat for Humanity. The stores, a major source of funding for the chapter, sell items donated by home-improvement stores and others. Habitat says the stores have been reorganized, restocked and cleaned. Hours in Independence are 9 to 5 Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and 9 to 3 Saturdays. All customers, staff and volunteers need to wear masks.

Political stalemate

Missouri remains one of just two states that doesn’t apply sales taxes to online sales. That was among the things the General Assembly did not address, again, this spring during a session shortened by the pandemic.

The state and some cities are missing out on that revenue, and it leaves brick-and-mortar stores – including a good number of local businesses – at a competitive disadvantage.

The Missouri General Assembly has an infuriating tradition of not handling straightforward policy questions in a straightforward way. If we give you this, we’re taking something else. It’s poor government, and again this year the result is that one idea kills the other so nothing gets done.

The tradeoff for applying sales taxes to all sales would be ending cable TV franchise fees.

David Slater, a banker in Blue Springs and the mayor of Pleasant Valley, pointed out the fallacy in that during a Blue Springs Chamber of Commerce legislative update on Friday. The two ideas are unrelated. One is enacting fairness across a key part of the tax system, and the other is leaving money in the hands of cable companies, not consumers.

But don’t expect the political equation to change.

“There’s just no way to unwind that,” said state Sen. Mike Cierpiot, R-Lee’s Summit.

The sales tax issue has lingered for some time now.

“We really need to get that addressed,” said Blue Springs City Council Member Susan Culpepper.

Despite the rhetoric coming out of Jefferson City at the time of adjournment three weeks ago, local legislators said it does not appear Gov. Mike Parson will call a special session soon, other than perhaps in September to deal with the budget.

“There’s lots of moving parts on that. It’s very fluid,” said Rep. Jeff Coleman, R-Grain Valley.

One more agenda item that didn’t get resolved this May: Business liability protections related to the pandemic.

“That issue is going to be looked at very seriously next year,” Cierpiot said.

Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s editor. Reach him at jeff.fox@examiner.net. He’s on Twitter at @FoxEJC.