Bad news for shoppers in Temple.

JC Penney has announced that as many as 200 of its stores will be closing as part of the company's "Store optimization strategy". The list of stores being shuttered includes the JC Penney location in the Temple Mall.

The Temple's Daily Telegram's Eric E. Garcia and Jacob Sanchez shared the news Thursday, along with a history lesson. JC Penney, they report, opened its first Temple location on April 7, 1917 at 20 S. Main St.

The JC Penney in Killeen's mall will remain open, but that's probably not much consolation to people in Temple who still like the experience of in-store shopping.

It's no secret that malls have been struggling for a while, and the Temple Mall's been no exception. When I was a kid, the place was always packed, and there wasn't a single empty space. It was like an entirely different world in there.

Even in my teens (early 2000's, to date myself), the mall was still the place to be on a Friday or Saturday night, enhanced by the addition of the then-new Premiere Cinema theater. On a typical Friday or Saturday night, my friends and I would thumb through comics at Walden's Books (later Border's), then head over to the CD store (the name of which always seemed to change) to sample music on the in-store headphones.

Man, I feel old.

Anyway, the mall still sports an IMAX theater, along with some great locally-owned businesses. I still say Peggy's Coffee House in the Temple Mall serves the best damned coffee in town.

It's just weird to think of the Temple Mall without JC Penney. It's just always been there. Then again, Macy's was there for so long as well, and we all saw that store close as well. It's now home to Dillard's, which moved there from the opposite side of the mall.

Liquidation sales at JC Penney locations that are closing are expected to begin later this month, and you'll still be able to shop at jcpenney.com, but it's just not the same.

Hey, maybe something positive will come of this and more local businesses will move in. It would be cool to see the mall become a community hub again, but unless a major wave of 80's and 90's nostalgia sweeps the nation again, it's doubtful America's malls will ever be what they once were. Maybe they could be something different with more local flare.

Time will tell, I suppose.

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