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As Oswego J.C. Penney lingers, ex-employees recall retail of yesteryear The stores manager Jeff Bame (from left), Kay McCollum, Jan Edwards, and Barb Arras at one of the store VIP nights. When J.C. Penney filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection earlier this year, many wondered about future of the department store chain’s longtime Oswego location. The once formidable retail powerhouse was in the midst of a long decline, the victim of mismanagement, as well as competition from the internet and discount department stores. When the coronavirus pandemic forced retailers to shutter their stores this spring, J.C. Penney collapsed. As part of its restructuring the company announced the closure of 154 of its 850 stores, including its stores in Oswego and at Destiny USA. But weeks later the company decided that a handful of stores, including in Oswego, would not close after all. The reason for the change wasn’t clear, but the news caused many former employees to reflect on their time there and what has changed. Before J.C. Penney opened in the Oswego Plaza in February 1977, the space was occupied by W.T. Grant. Largely forgotten today, Grant was the nation’s 17th largest retailer when it filed for bankruptcy protection