Every year since the store was built in the 1970s, Carson Pirie Scott employees began gearing up for the big holiday rush around this time of year.
But 2014 will be known as the year without a Christmas for the North Riverside Park Mall anchor. Smoke damage from a fire in the store’s loading dock area earlier this week will cause Carson’s to be closed through the holiday season, its parent company announced Friday.
“We are grateful that no one was inside the building when the fire started,” said Steve Byers, executive vice president of Bon-Ton Stores Inc. in a press release. “The safety of our associates and customers is our primary concern, and we applaud the efforts of local firefighters during this ordeal.”
The temporary closure of the store will affect about 130 employees, who will be offered opportunities to transfer to other Carson’s locations as the store makes repairs, according to the press release.
While the fire damage was contained within the loading dock area by fire sprinklers, heavy smoke filled the department store by the time firefighters arrived on the scene early Wednesday morning.
The smoke was so heavy, said North Riverside Fire Chief Brian Basek, that firefighters initially had a difficult time locating the fire. Basek, who responded to the scene on the morning of the fire, said the store’s “the smoke-evacuation system didn’t appear to be working at full capacity.”
Basek said that the cause of the fire is still under investigation and that it’s likely that the store’s insurance carrier will conduct its own in-depth investigation. But early indications point to the fire being caused by something electrical in nature, he said.
The fire started in the northwest corner of the loading dock, which is located on the south side of the store.
Village inspectors cleared the store to re-open the same morning as the fire, but Carson’s officials apparently weren’t comfortable doing that.
The store’s closure during the holiday season will affect sales tax revenue for the village. North Riverside depends heavily on sales tax revenue for its day-to-day operations. Just how much the village will lose as a result of the closure is not known.
“It’s way too early to tell,” said Village Administrator Guy Belmonte. “It’s definitely going to mean a hit not to have December sales tax. How much, we don’t know yet.”