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The emotional final day of Herberger’s

There was plenty of activity still on the final day of Herbergers in Dickinson. (Iain Woessner / The Dickinson Press)1 / 2
Open in Dickinson since 1978, Herbergers will serve no more the good people of Stark County -- its final day was Wednesday. (Iain Woessner / The Dickinson Press)2 / 2

On the dawn of the final day of Dickinson's Herbergers clothing store, customers were still sifting through shoeboxes and clothes racks on the hunt for good deals; associates still helped ring up cosmetics and direct visitors to the various departments. In many ways was just like any other day.

Yet there was a weight to the air, an impending sense of finality—store manager Anne Marie Martinson compared it to the feeling of watching a sick relative pass.

"It's like a death. It's like a terminal illness," Martinson said. "It hasn't been easy."

It was visibly emotional for Martinson and other associates to say goodbye. For Eunice Venstad, working here was the "best job" she'd "ever had".

"The community has supported us tremendously. Herberger's has given me my life back," Venstad said. "I worked in the kids department and just helping the grandparents and the kids and oh, it was awesome. People are so wonderful. They were so good to me, very appreciative. I'm really going to miss the store."

Theresa Black recalled a workplace rich in laughter.

"We're a lot like family, we have a lot of good times together," She said, remembering a particularly mirthful Thanksgiving season this past year. "We have this cardboard MyPillow guy and our HR manager Rose hid him in ... in every back area of the store throughout the day and scare us. She is definitely the prankster."

He was, for the final day, set up by the back door where employees come and go, with giving one last cheery smile to the Herberger's crew on their last day. The cardboard figure, Black said, is a fixture at every Herberger's store.

Not far from where he stood by the doorway, a wall display of photographs reveals a sea of smiling faces. It was a fun place to work, Black said, adding:

"I would have never left."

The connections amongst the crew were strong across the store, as was a love for the job

"I'm sad! I'm going to miss all these people," Connie Booke, another associate, said. "I loved my job, I did enjoy getting up and going every day."

Martinson said that the community has felt the loss since the first public announcement of the bankruptcy auction.

"The day that it went public there was people just talking about the loss to the community," Martinson said. "It's a loss to them personally—people who have shopped here since they grew up."

For the Prairie Hills Mall—and its general manager Peggy O'Brien—the departure of Herbergers marks the end of an era.

"It's very sad, it makes my heart heavy, but it's unfortunately a sign of the times," O'Brien said. "That's the last of our original anchors."

The future isn't all grey skies, O'Brien reported—a newcomer to the mall, Durham's Sporting Goods , is ahead of schedule and should be opening "soon", O'Brien said.