By KEVIN LILLY

Pharos-Tribune business writer

Customers of the nation’s largest retailer of crafts and fabrics, with a location in Cass Plaza, are being told that its long tradition in the Logansport community will be coming to an end.

In early 2007, Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts reportedly will be going out of business. Reports have come from unnamed sources who fear speaking to the media could cost them their jobs.

Three weeks of calls to the corporate office in Cleveland, Ohio, have resulted in speaking with a public relations firm that e-mailed a statement from Jeff Fink, vice president of real estate, Jo-Ann Stores. That statement follows with an explanation from the public relations representative.

“We don’t have any store closings in your area to confirm at this time. Real estate plans are always under review. We’ll keep you up-to-date as we plan for future store openings and closings that pertain to your region,” Fink said via e-mail, via PR rep Angie Rolle.

Rolle, who works for Weber Shandwick Worldwide, one of the world’s largest public relations firms, said being nine months from the possible closing was too far out for Jo-Ann Fabrics, Inc. to confirm without a doubt that the Logansport location will be one of many stores across the United States that will soon cease to exist.

“They won’t say that it is not closing but they can’t confirm that it is in fact going to close,” Rolle said in a phone interview. “At this point in time, it is too far out to give confirmation one way or the other.”

With the ambiguous wording of the statement from Fink combined with statements from the company’s PR firm, the store may remain open. But that is contrary to what employees were reportedly told by the company’s upper management.

In the company’s year-end financial release, it outlines plans to become more financially sound by closing as many as 60 stores nationwide. The company reported a net loss of $23 million for 2005. In 2005, the company closed 57 stores, which left it with 684 traditional stores and 154 superstores, for a total of 838 stores.

“This year clearly has been a challenging and disappointing time for Jo-Ann Stores,” said Alan Rosskamm, chairman and chief executive officer, according to financial statements. “We entered the year with high expectations and, in hindsight, with overly optimistic merchandising plans. The challenges of a slowing market and declining traffic were exacerbated by merchandising and marketing decisions that proved to be ineffective as we tried to counter negative industry trends during the year.”

The Logansport store has been in the community several years. It first opened inside the Logansport Mall and then moved to Eastgate Plaza. It has been in its current location since 1996. Twelve people are employed there. The company employs more than 20,000 people nationwide.

The history of Jo-Ann stores begins in 1943 when the first store was opened by Hilda and Berthold Reich, and Sigmund and Mathilda Rohrbach under the name Cleveland Fabric Shop.

Other nearby Jo-Ann Fabrics stores can be found in Kokomo 27 miles away, in Plymouth 40 miles away, and in Lafayette 41 miles away.

Three other companies this year have already left Logansport or have announced that they are leaving. The Hildebrandt Company, who had produced fishing lures for more than 100 years, and Sam Goody have already departed. Radio Shack inside the Logansport Mall will remain open until August.

Store information for Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts

- Store is still open and it is business as usual.

Company Web site

- www.joann.com

Link to place customer inquires

- www.joann.com/about_joann/about_joann_stores.jhtml

Local store number

- 753-6808



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