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BREAKING: Eastbay closing for good
The news was expected, but came more suddenly than anyone anticipated
NOTE: The Wausonian rarely publishes breaking news. The Wausonian’s focus is on providing you a weekly, curated news summary and in-depth, thoughtful, data driving journalism about the Wausau area. But something this big is an exception.
I expected that I would eventually be writing a headline about Eastbay closing — but I didn’t expect that I would be writing that headline this year.
Eastbay on its website has an FAQ page. At the top of that page, it explains that the company will be closing by the end of the year.
We're saying goodbye to Eastbay at the end of December 2022. We encourage you to shop at champssports.com to find great deals for your athletic shoes, clothing, and more.
That’s it. No major announcement to the city, no WARN notice, which is a surprise. The company in October put out a notice that it would be closing its distribution center in January and would slowly wind down operations out there. More than 200 were expected to be laid off.
But now it looks like the company will completely close down at the end of this month. The news was handled with a release on Foot Lockers’ website and an FAQ page.
The closure attracted nationwide attention, including news outlet Sports Illustrated, which incorrectly stated that the current closure would affect 210 workers (as did WSAW). That was just the distribution center closure announced in October. How many workers this will impact is yet to be learned. No WARN noticed was sent for the current closure, a scan of the DWD’s website shows.
Signs of Eastbay closing
Not many would be surprised at Eastbay’s closure, though many figured it was coming soon. The company shut down its retail store earlier this year, and before that sent many of its jobs to Florida.
The company at its peak had around 2,000 employees and was considered one of Wausau’s major employers. Starting with the exodus to Florida (many in Wausau were offered jobs there) the company has clearly been in decline.
Insiders tell The Wausonian that competitors such as Game One have been hiring away Eastbay’s remaining talent. And Eastbay hadn’t been trying too hard to retain those employees.
The parking lot of the First Avenue building, which once was chock full of cars, now looks about half full at most on any given day.
Besides leaving an untold number of workers without jobs (anyone with tips on those numbers or anyone with inside info can reply to this email or reach out via firstname.lastname@example.org) it will leave a pretty large empty building in the middle of Wausau’s core.
Not to mention the 500,000 square foot warehouse in the city’s industrial park.
The news comes as the economy is on the verge of recession. Major national employers are announcing layoffs and hiring freezes. Everyone from DoorDash to Meta (Facebook) and Amazon have announced layoffs.
That might make it tough for a city to find a new use for Eastbay’s corporate office and warehouse that will be empty.
City Council Member Tom Kilian, whose district Eastbay’s corporate offices reside in, told The Wausonian that the job losses are traumatic and tragic. “My thoughts are with all Wausonians who will be losing employment,” Kilian says.
Kilian says in discussion with DWD officials this morning (Wednesday), those officials told Kilian they’d received no notice beyond the notice they’d received in October about the distribution center shutting down.
City leaders already have plans to purchase land north of the Eastbay Corporate offices, known collectively as the MBX property. When asked if the city should get involved in purchasing the Eastbay property in order to redevelop it when the location goes vacant, Kilian says he already opposed the MBX purchase.
City government needs to get out of the real estate and development business. The City and CIP Committee already want to commit $2.5 million to westside riverfront development north of Eastbay on what is commonly known as the "MBX" properties. I find this inappropriate and callous at a time when our citizens are worried about things as basic and critical as whether or not they are going to be able to afford water.
The Wausonian reached out to both Mayor Katie Rosenberg for comment on the story. (Rosenberg had worked in social media at Eastbay before being elected mayor.) We will update this story when they respond.
If you current work at Eastbay and would like to discuss more details with The Wausonian, please reach out by responding to this email or sending an email to email@example.com. You can remain anonymous as long as you provide me proof that you in fact work there.