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Modell's files bankruptcy, to close all locations

Modell's Sporting Goods closed its Riverhead location in

Modell's Sporting Goods closed its Riverhead location in January 2019.  The chain has filed for Chapter 11 and will close all of its stores.  Credit: Randee Daddona

Modell's Sporting Goods, a century-old, family-owned chain, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and will close its remaining stores, including 14 on Long Island, officials said. 

The New York-based retailer known for its “Gotta Go to Mo’s” ad slogan becomes the latest traditional retailer to succumb to a fast-changing environment. In recent years Payless ShoeSource Corp., Toys R Us and children's chain Gymboree have filed for Chapter 11 reorganization or liquidated their operations.

Modell's local stores include locations in Bay Shore, Centereach, Freeport, Huntington, Oceanside and Plainview.

It closed a store in Riverhead Centre in January 2019 and one in Airport Plaza in Farmingdale in September.

The retailer closed the Riverhead store because the space was “too large for their stores of the future,” a real estate agent representing the shopping center told Newsday in November 2018.

Modell’s was leaving the Farmingdale location as its lease expired, Jennifer Maisch, a spokeswoman for New Hyde Park-based Kimco Realty Corp., the owner of Airport Plaza, told Newsday in July.

Modell’s has hired Tiger Capital Group to oversee the liquidation of its stores, it said in a statement Wednesday.

It has 134 stores on the East Coast, 19 of which started store closing sales prior to the bankruptcy filing, Tami Mohney, a spokeswoman for the company, said Wednesday in an email. The remaining 115 stores will begin liquidation sales Friday, she said.

Modell’s employs 3,623 people, Mohney said.

The challenging retail environment for brick-and-mortar stores took its toll on Modell’s, whose customers can find sporting goods on Amazon.com and at other online competitors, said Tom Slome, a partner at Garden City-based law firm Cullen & Dykman who specializes in commercial bankruptcies.  

“They tried to find lenders.  They tried to get their landlord to work with them, and their suppliers.  They had some success with their suppliers and their landlords but, in these times, it’s hard to get a group of banks to make a loan to a largely brick-and-mortar retailer,” said Slome, who is not involved in Modell’s bankruptcy filing.

Until the Chapter 11 process is finished, Modell’s will continue to explore options to keep some or all of the company alive, including a recapitalization of the business through a sale of some or all of its assets or finding an equity partner, Mohney said.

Most of Modell’s stores are in the New York market, so the team merchandise in those stores focuses on the professional teams in the state, she said.

“They kind of hitched their wagon maybe a little too much to the New York sports scene,” Slome said,  since New York's pro basketball and football teams have struggled in recent years.

"The poor performance by local sports teams has had a negative effect on the business," Mohney said. She said "increased competition from big box and specialty sporting goods retailers, a decline in team sports participation, shifting of sales from traditional brick and mortar retailers to online resellers, and a warmer than usual winter causing a decrease in cold weather apparel and footwear sales" also played a role. 

Founded in 1889 by Morris A. Modell, the first Modell's was located on Cortlandt Street in lower Manhattan, according to the company website. — AP

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