AUBURN – No word yet on when Steve & Barry’s will be closing, but discount signs and some empty shelves are signaling the end is near.

Corporate headquarters for the trendy discount store said the store at the Auburn Mall would be closing soon, but did not offer a specific date. Many of the 103 stores pegged for closure in the national chain’s downsizing will be shuttered Sept. 24. The local store – the first in northern New England – opened last winter.

“We don’t know when it will close, but we remain hopeful that we’ll find a replacement,” said David Lee, mall manager.

The store, which occupies 60,000 square feet of the 300,000-square-foot mall, has marked much of its merchandise down to $6.98, with everything else at $8.98, and is offering incentives such as $25 off purchases of $100 or more. The chain made a name for itself by offering trendy, celebrity-inspired apparel at low prices.

Lee said the mall is still in flux, with two newcomers arriving recently and three seasonal stores preparing to open. Go Games has already opened, offering board games, toys and unique things for play, while Hickory Farms and the Calendar Store will open later this season, said Lee.

New York Fashions, a hip-hop, urban outfitter opened recently next to Photo Finish, and Joyful Hope Gift Shop moved from its Lisbon Street location in Lewiston to the mall this summer.

Debbie Littleton, gift shop manager, said the move has been terrific for the store, which offers gifts as well as Bates-inspired bedspreads by Maine Heritage Weavers.

“The move has been great for us,” said Littleton, noting the shop gets more foot traffic than at the previous location. “We’re gearing up for a huge Christmas season … it’s a little bit daunting.”

– Carol Coultas

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