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The Sears store in Kelso's Three Rivers Mall will close in January, employees were told Wednesday morning.

The loss of Sears will mean vacancies in two of the mall's anchor locations, leaving JC Penney and Macy's as the major tenants. The Emporium closed in 2003, and the mall has yet to find a permanent tenant for that 42,000-square-foot space.

Sears' manager declined to comment Wednesday, but the company is expected to make an official announcement soon.

The Daily News confirmed the closure through several sources Wednesday evening.

Three Rivers Mall manager Linda DiLembo said she didn't know anything about the closure.

"I'll have to find out from corporate. I have no confirmation on that from anyone," DiLembo said Wednesday.

Sources said the Kelso Sears will start a liquidation sale Nov. 2 and expects its last day of business will be Jan. 20.

The closure, though sudden, is not shocking.

Sears Holdings announced last winter it planned to close 173 Sears and Kmart stores around the United States this year.

The company reported a $3.1 billion loss for 2011, a dramatic falloff from a $122 million profit the year before.

At the start of the year, Sears had 23 mall-based anchor stores in Washington, according to the company.

The Kelso Sears was one of the original anchor stores when the mall opened to great fanfare in 1987 on the site of the former Elks golf course. However, Sears has a decades-long local history, having been located in Longview for many years in what is now the Lower Columbia CAP building next to the Columbia Theatre.

At 52,659 square feet, Sears is the largest of the three remaining anchor stores in the mall, which has struggled under the down economy, the rise of the Internet and shoppers' preferences for outdoor-style centers. Today, at least a third of the mall's shops are vacant, and the food court houses just four eateries.

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