Two Columbia County stores will be among those closing because the company that owns Bill's Dollar Stores has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
The chain's owner, Bonus Stores Inc., said it does not have a date for the closings, but one Columbia County store manager was told her store would be closed in 10 to 12 weeks. The closings are part of a large restructuring of the Mississippi-based company.
There are three Bill's Dollar Stores in the area, in Grovetown, Harlem and Thomson.
"It is a popular place and a lot of people shop there for convenience," said Jean Dove, Harlem's city manager. "We are sorry to see it close because it has been open in the community for years."
The company will keep open 97 of 330 stores, all of which are in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, said Lex Davis, the company's executive vice president of systems and distribution.
"This has nothing to do with the local economy or the state of Georgia. This is strictly a business decision," Davis said. "The company as a whole is downsizing, and we're cutting back on a number of stores and reorganizing the company."
The Thomson store, which has three full-time employees, has a "store closing" banner above its entrance and employees referred all questions to the home office.
Sharon Shaw, manager of the Grovetown store, said she was not told a closing date, and the two full-time employees of that store have not been offered a transfer or other compensation after the closing. The manager of the Harlem store, which also has two full-time employees, said they were offered no severance package, but can work toward a bonus.
Jack Koegel, the CEO of Bonus Stores Inc., said in a news release on the company's Web site that the stores that remain open might be expanded to include a grocery section and a wider selection of merchandise.
Grovetown Mayor Dennis Trudeau was surprised by the closing announcement, but noted that other discount stores such as Dollar General and Family Dollar remain open.
"I am sure (the building) will be occupied in a very short time," he said.
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