Resurrection Unlikely For Boston Icon

By Jordan Weinstein

Nov. 2, 2011

BOSTON — Discount retailer Syms Corp. and its subsidiary Filene's Basement has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and plans to liquidate operations. Syms acquired Filene's Basement out of bankruptcy in the spring of 2009 for $62.4 million but had struggled to turn the chain around.
David Kruh, author of two books on Boston’s old Scollay Square, said he understood why those who remember the Downtown Crossing store will miss it.
“As I found when I was researching my books on Scollay Square, people develop attachments to places for many reasons, but often because of two: either they were places of change — like, for example, guys who saw their first girlie show at the Old Howard — or because they were places of consistency. And I can relate to the latter in this case, because I’m one of the millions who pawed through the racks of the downtown Filene’s, and after it was closed, still held out hope for its resurrection. But now we know that’s not going to be and that’s sad for us collectively as a city, and it’s sad for me individually.”
However, filmmaker Michael Bavaro, who produced a film about Filene’s shown on WGBH television, said he still believed the store would live on in one form or another.
“I think the brand is strong. I think somebody will buy it and keep it alive, either online or even if it’s just that one store. That one store made more money than the entire chain stores ever did,” he said.
Syms CEO Marcy Syms said increased competition from department stores, private-label discounters and the economic downturn weighed heavily on the company. She said the bankruptcy filing and a planned liquidation was considered the best way to maximize value for shareholders.
The petitions were filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. Syms, based in Secaucus, N.J., had announced in May that it was exploring strategic options, including a potential sale.

The documentary "Voices From The Basement" premiered on WGBH 2.

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