We love JC Penney.
There. We said it. No takesies backsies.
Bag Lady and Shopping Siren know the retailer probably isn’t so popular anymore, what with all the other online options out there. But we aren’t shy about expressing our affection for the store that has, over the years, brought us our favorite sunglasses ever, the only affordable-yet-stylish pair of waterproof boots to be found within 50 miles and an entire wardrobe of professional wear for less than the cost of a fancy dinner. (Black. Pants. Rule.)
So when we heard JC Penney plans to close up to 140 stores nationally, we immediately began to fret. What if Auburn is on the list? What will we do? Where will we go?
We aren’t ashamed to say it: There may have been wailing.
Business Insider said this week the Maine Mall store could be in jeopardy, based on its sales info. We have no idea whether the South Portland, Auburn or any of Maine’s four other JCP locations will be traveling to that great mall in the sky, but we thought we’d do a little pre-emptive pleading just in case.
What, exactly, would we miss? Oh, we’re so glad you asked.
Tucked in the back of the store is pillow nirvana surrounded by towel heaven wrapped in kitchen gadget paradise. Imagine Pier One had a cool little brother no one paid attention to until he moved to California and became Liam Hemsworth. JCP’s home section is just like that.
* Cooks 1.5 quart slow cooker, $12.99
Adorable mini slow cooker perfect for single meals or very, very small batches of food. There are some things you don’t know you need until you see them. This is one of those things.
* JC Penney Home complete twin bedding set, $66
A big sticker on the bag that read “dorm life” couldn’t have been more perfect: Bag Lady and Shopping Siren haven’t had reversible comforters on their beds since college, but that’s totally the time when a no-muss, no-fuss sham/sheet/sheet/topper come in handy. And we have so many colleges locally! There are thousands of beds in bags that need homes. We’re cuing the Sarah McLachlan music …
Another tucked-in-the-back section, but this one is filled with “Toy Story” costumes, princess dolls and “Frozen” play sets rather than pillows and dishes. It’s a kid’s dream. (And a parent’s dream if you ever have to replace little Dakota’s favorite Belle dress without tantrums.)
* Talking Disney dolls, $19.99
Mostly from the “Toy Story” universe, these are good-sized (16 inches or so) talking dolls that look and feel like they’ve stepped right out of the movie screen. Shopping Siren was smitten with Bullseye the horse, which makes galloping noises. Because she’s still a 5-year-old at heart.
* Character costumes, $40 (also buy-one-get-one-half-off)
Where else are you going to find a deluxe Buzz Lightyear costume or a red “Cars” pit crew jumper regardless of the time of year? That’s right. Nowhere.
Shopping Siren still waxes poetic about the time she bought two (two!) winter jackets for $20 each from Penney’s clearance section. It was a banner day. No wimpy 15 percent discount here — if it’s not 70 to 90 percent off, it’s not really clearance.
* Black Label by Evan Picone fit-and-flare dress, various sizes, $23.99
Red sleeveless dress with a rounded neckline, tailored sides and a white and black belt-like accent. Perfect for a summer date, or pair with a black blazer for work in the fall or spring. Basically, it’s the dress you’ll never put away.
* Columbia women’s winter fleece, various sizes, $19.49
Forget that winter is almost mercifully behind us. Unlike Arnold, it will be back.
In the interest of full disclosure, or perhaps we should say, non-disclosure, neither BL nor SS has ever partaken of Penney’s bra-fitting services, but we’ve always thought that having such a service somewhere in the Twin Cities was a great thing. (Gravity happens; we’ll say no more.) Sure enough, there in the under-things changing room, what do we find but a smiling picture of “certified bra fit specialist” Rachel Thibault.
Fit on, Rachel, fit on.
* Wall of Spanx, various prices
We dare say there’s nowhere else in the Twin Cities to find an entire wall of wearables that squeeze and smooth, and in colors other than basic tan, like the black floral Maidenform Waist Nipper ($43).
There’s a Sephora store in the Auburn JC Penney. Like, an actual store-within-a-store. It’s a little weird. And kinda cool. And very much something we’d like to stick around — even if it is a thing we never knew existed until five minutes ago.
* Sephora Mini Deluxe Charcoal Antibacterial Brush Set, $42
Includes six makeup brushes and a little carrying case. Each brush fiber is infused with charcoal, which is supposed to make it more hygienic. Here’s to hoping it doesn’t instead make you look like Bert from “Mary Poppins.”
* Kat Von D tattoo liner, $20
A thing we didn’t know existed inside a place we didn’t know existed and yet now we can’t stop outlining the “LOVETOSHOP” we just tatted on our knuckles.
Coupons and JCP cash
We know retailers can hide behind coupons — jacking up the price of something only to reduce it with a coupon so it looks like you’re getting a deal. Still, there’s a thrill in getting 20 percent off boots already on clearance or $10 off those towels you were going to buy anyway. It’s like hunting. Only no animals were harmed in the making of our shopping deal.
They change pretty regularly, but last week included 25 percent off clearance clothes bought online or an extra 15 percent off almost anything online. It all just means more money for shopping, which is sneaky but we’re OK with that.
* JCP Cash
Like Kohl’s Cash, except not Kohl’s, which is sort of how we feel about JC Penney. It’s got a different feel and look and inventory and we sincerely hope there’s room for both; our closets will be happier for it.
Bag Lady and Shopping Siren’s true identities are protected by a pair of stylish, sweater-wearing Doberman pinschers (who haven’t destroyed a Disney toy in ages) and the Customer Service counter at the Sun Journal. You can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.