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J.C. Penney will close its Citadel Mall store in West Ashley by June. Warren L. Wise/Staff

The long-struggling Citadel Mall took a hit Friday when J.C. Penney said it will shutter its department store in the West Ashley shopping center by June.

The company's Northwoods Mall location in North Charleston will remain open.

About 60-70 local workers are affected, according to Calvin Tucker, store manager at Citadel Mall.

The closing list showed one other Penney in South Carolina, in Easley, along with dozens of others around the country.

The company said it will try to offer affected workers jobs in other locations if possible. Liquidation sales are expected to begin April 17. 

Tucker said Friday's announcement "was kind of a shock.

"We are all sad," he said. "We love our store, and we love our customers. We are going to be here until we close to give them the best service and the best products we have to offer."

Shoppers at the Citadel Mall store Friday also were surprised.

"I've been a Penney's customer forever," said Donna Mouras of Summerville. "I'm not happy. I always come here first. Everybody is going online, but I like to feel what I'm buying."

She added, "At least they are not closing all of their stores."

Vicki Aiello, who is wintering at Edisto Island from Pennsylvania, wasn't thrilled with the decision either.

"I'm upset," she said, while holding an armful of pants. "I love this store. I think Penney's has the best quality of linens. This is always the first place I come."

Taking a break from walking the mall, Sally Humbert of West Ashley browsed through a clothing rack in the store.

"I hate to see the company going down," she said. "I think any anchor closing will hurt the mall."

Like each of the major retailers at Citadel Mall, J.C. Penney owns its 126,000-square-foot space and footprint on a 10.6-acre site off Sam Rittenberg Boulevard.

The rest of the shopping center is owned separately and recently changed hands. Last month, a group of investors led by Richard C. Davis, broker-in-charge of James Island-based Trademark Properties and creator of the reality TV show "Flip This House," paid $17 million for the other 290,620 square feet.

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Specific plans, other than a mix of uses, have not been announced by the buyers.

Davis and the mall manager did not respond to requests for comment Friday about the loss of a major anchor tenant.

It's unclear what impact J.C. Penney's closing will have on Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg's efforts to revitalize the retail mix in West Ashley.

“We look forward to working with the future owners of the site on planning a brighter future for Citadel Mall,” said Jacob Lindsey, director of Planning, Preservation and Sustainability for the city.

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J.C. Penney Citadel Mall (copy)

J.C. Penney will close its Citadel Mall store in West Ashley by June. The Northwoods Mall location will remain open. Warren L. Wise/Staff

Penney has pulled out of Citadel Mall once before. In 2001, the chain left after a six-year run, blaming poor sales. It returned in 2007 by moving into a space that had been vacated by the former department store Parisian.

The closings announced Friday are part of a broader turnaround plan by Texas-based Penney. The company said 138 U.S. locations are going dark in an effort to return to profitability by focusing on the top-performing stores. That figure was in line with a prediction the retailer made last month. About 5,000 employees will be affected.

Like other department stores, J.C. Penney Co. is struggling as more shoppers hop online instead of heading to the mall. The closings will leave the chain with about 900 brick-and-mortar locations.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 843-937-5524 or warrenlancewise@twitter.com.