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Customers gather as Jessa Farseth unlocks the doors of the Macy’s department store on Sunday, the final day of operation in downtown Missoula. Photo by LINDA THOMPSON/Missoulian

No Muzak, no merriment, and not much merchandise.

The last stand at Macy's on Sunday had the feel not of a last hurrah, but of a memorial procession as hundreds of shoppers arrived to say goodbye as much as they did to find good buys of $4 pants and $30 smoky glass tables.

"To me, it feels like a garage sale," said Traci Yochim, who wandered through the remaining slim pickings hours before the store closed for good. "And that's kind of sad."

Yochim, who has lived in Missoula for four years after moving from Seattle, said Macy's "was the one piece of a big city" she could find here.

She was not lured to the last-day sale by Grane jeans at 90 percent off or $25,000 Persian rugs discounted to $6,250. Like many others who crowded the downtown landmark, she didn't arrive with a shopping list.

"I just kind of came to see this, to be here," she said.

Others found bras for a couple of bucks, sweaters for an Abraham Lincoln and coffee tables for the price of a few large movie popcorns.

"This is my third time here," said Abby Bailey, who had a few blouses draped over her arm. "I wasn't going to miss it, because I knew how cheap things were going to get."

Macy's - formerly Bon Macy's, formerly the Bon Marche, formerly the Missoula Mercantile - was a victim of the ongoing recession as much as it was the ever-shifting realities of retail and the shrinking of the department store industry.

There has been a department store at the corner of Front Street and Higgins Avenue since Missoula was born. On a normal retail day, a crowd as large as Sunday's would have been shoulder-to-shoulder. But the gutted innards of Macy's had the look and feel of a warehouse, a sad reminder of the end of an era in Missoula's history. All the shoppers knew it; some grieved.

"Bye!" said Allison Larsen, as she left the store's east exit with an area rug thrown over her shoulder. "Thanks for being here."

Back inside, Macy's employees would not answer questions about the sale, or their last day on the job. They'd been told not to talk to the media.

All around them were the low mumbles of shoppers and curious witnesses to history. But lest they forgot this was, in the end, a shopping day in a department store, one man reminded them with an impatient plea to his bargain-hungry wife.

"Come on!" he said. "We've gotta be out of here by 5!"

Reporter Jamie Kelly can be reached at 523-5254 or at jkelly@missoulian.com.

 

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