Rapids Sears to continue long presence in community
By Kris Leonhardt
WISCONSIN RAPIDS – As Sears Holdings files for bankruptcy and closes nearly 150 stores, the Wisconsin Rapids Sears location will continue its long presence in the community that dates back to the 1990s.
“Sears had a catalog store in Wisconsin Rapids for decades located in the strip mall where ACE hardware is now,” said owner, Shawn Rehberg. “In the early 1990s, Sears closed down the catalog stores to switch to a new format called Sears Authorized Retail Dealer Stores. These stores were locally owned and carried appliances, electronics, lawn and garden, and tools. Kenmore, Craftsman, and Die Hard were their main brands.
“Ralph and Deb Totzke (Rehberg’s in-laws) were the original owners of the Sears Authorized Retail Dealer store here in Wisconsin Rapids. In 1996, they moved the store to its current location – 910 Huntington Ave.
“I started working at the store in February of 1997 and purchased the store in May of 2004.”
Since taking over the business, the Rehbergs have added fitness equipment, mattresses, and expanded on existing inventory and brands.
“We are the only retailer to carry the top 10 major appliance brands (Kenmore, Whirlpool, Maytag, LG, Samsung…) plus we have added Husqvarna, Poulan Pro, Dewalt, Porter Cable, and more to our lawn and garden and tool department, and plan on expanding,” Rehberg added.
As Sears files for bankruptcy, the Wisconsin Rapids store will not be affected.
“We separated from Sears Holdings back in 2012 and operate as Sears Hometown & Outlet Inc and as such are listed on NASDAQ: SHOS,” he said. “We are a publicly traded company with approximately 800 locations across the United States. We have the iconic name of Sears above our door and are able to team up with them when it makes sense, but we have our own contracts and merchandise that is more in line with the smaller cities we are located in.”
As shopping trends toward online venues and many local companies fall away, Rehberg said he expects longevity, as the store fills a certain need in the community.
“With so many companies focusing on online shopping that forces customers to buy without seeing the product or having to travel maybe hundreds of miles to see an item in person,” he said, “the local hometown store here allows customers to get expert advice from trained sales people on a wide variety of products plus see firsthand what they are buying.”
For more information on the Rapids Sears store, visit Searshometownstores.com or find them on Facebook.