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FARMINGTON — A yellow banner announcing Hastings' pending closure in this city now hangs in front of its building in the San Juan North Shopping Center.

News about its parent company — Hastings Entertainment — starting liquidation sales to close all 123 store locations was reported last week. The move came five weeks after the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del.

According to a statement from the multimedia entertainment retailer, the goal was to expedite the search for a buyer, which would have helped complete a re-merchandise strategy, and position the business for long-term success. That strategy failed, however.

On July 21, the bankruptcy court approved an agreement between Hastings and Hilco Merchant Resources LLC and Gordon Brothers Retail Partners to oversee the store closures.

"All Hastings stores, our e-Commerce business and our corporate office will all discontinue operations at the end of this process," according to the statement.

A company spokeswoman said the timeline for store closures has yet to be determined but published reports say stores will close by Oct. 31.

On Monday, a steady flow of customers continued to enter the Hastings on East 20th Street and check out merchandise mark downs, ranging from 10 to 30 percent.

Dave Diaz has been the store manager of the Farmington location for two and half years and has worked for 13 years with the retailer.

He said the news has been difficult to process since the Farmington location rates high in customer volume and continued to be profitable for the company.

"We were doing what we needed to do. …There was too much debt for the entire company," Diaz said.

The 34 employees in Farmington were "blindsided" by the closure announcement because they were confident the company would be bought by another retailer but the buyer backed out at the last minute, Diaz said.

The store started reducing prices Saturday and customers have been expressing concerns about employees and losing the merchandise outlet that sells books, music, movies and other items, he said.

"We're one of the last media entertainment stores in most communities — Hollywood Video, Blockbuster are gone. Most music stores are gone. What I'm hearing a lot from customers is that there's going to be a noticeable hole in that kind of product in town," Diaz said.

The store also hosted events such as tournaments for "Magic: The Gathering," a card game, and video games; book and music signings; and book sales at high schools and colleges.

Hastings arrived in Farmington in the late 1980s and opened its first location in the Animas Valley Mall, Diaz said.

It moved to the shopping center on East 20th Street in December 1990, according to the city clerk's office.

Douglas Peterson, president of Peterson Properties, which owns the shopping center, said Monday he was not "entirely surprised" by the closure but it's disappointing.

"Nevertheless, we feel that our property is very well positioned in Farmington and it looks nice and it will market well to other interested retailers," Peterson said, adding that talks are underway to rent the location to another business.

Audra Winters, president of the Farmington Chamber of Commerce, said the closure is a "loss" but it presents the opportunity for a new business to open at that location.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.

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