Doreen Ricci shares memories of her late father, Jake Boersema, who worked 48 years for Sears in Everett, many of these years at the Everett Mall store. Among his memorabilia is an engraved clock, a trophy awarded in 1977 for Boersema having the No.1 Sears hardware department in the nation. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Doreen Ricci shares memories of her late father, Jake Boersema, who worked 48 years for Sears in Everett, many of these years at the Everett Mall store. Among his memorabilia is an engraved clock, a trophy awarded in 1977 for Boersema having the No.1 Sears hardware department in the nation. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

As Sears closure looms, daughter of star salesman looks back

A “retail baby,” she’s still in the business as the store where her dad spent decades nears its final days.

Walking through the south-facing doors of Sears at Everett Mall, Doreen Ricci stopped for a moment. “They’re just the same,” she said, her voice a little wistful. “I used to lock them.”

The store, an anchor at the mall since 1969, will close forever next month. An employee at the Everett store said Friday that its last day of sales will be Dec. 1. In Chicago, Sears and Kmart public relations director Larry Costello would only say it’s scheduled to close by mid-December.

Sears is so much more than Ricci’s former workplace. Her late father, Jacob “Jake” Boersema, worked at the Everett store so long he was known as “the hardware man.” The 55-year-old Ricci, a longtime Macy’s employee at Alderwood, remembers her Sears childhood.

She was 5 when Sears left its downtown location at Everett and Colby avenues. That’s where, in 1943, Boersema started his 48-year Sears career while taking a retail selling class at Everett High School. Ricci was allowed to skip a day of kindergarten for the grand opening of what a Herald ad on Feb. 11, 1969, called a “completely new” and “excitingly beautiful” store.

An entire 12-page special section of the newspaper was devoted to Sears that day.

In the aftermath of the 1971 Boeing bust, Everett Mall wouldn’t officially open until 1974.

Ricci, calling herself a “retail baby,” said a Sears catalog did double-duty as a booster seat in her childhood home in Marysville. She remembers helping her dad with inventory as an 8-year-old. “I would count the nuts and bolts,” she said, adding that the store once had a restaurant that sold “Sears burgers.”

She played in her dad’s office, with his rubber stamps and other supplies. “I grew up in this,” she said, strolling past a row of riding lawnmowers and pointing to where his office was.

After college, in 1984, Ricci said her dad helped her get a job at Sears. She went on to work for the Bon Marche at Everett Mall, later Macy’s. While there, she’d have lunch with her dad in the Everett Mall food court. In 1979, when Sears opened its now-closed Alderwood store, she said her father loved his Everett job and co-workers too much to consider a move south to Lynnwood.

Ricci has been with Macy’s and formerly the Bon 34 years. She’s now women’s clothing manager at Alderwood. “What I learned from my dad I carried on at Macy’s,” she said.

“I feel this Everett Sears store and all the employees who have worked there should be recognized and celebrated,” she said in a recent email. Most of all, Ricci hopes to celebrate her father, who was 81 when he died of cancer in 2008.

Boersema, who spent most of his career in the hardware department, was heralded by co-workers with a big party when he retired in 1991. “He’s a superstar,” then-assistant store manager Carole Wallace told The Herald’s Kristi O’Harran in 1991. “I haven’t heard of anybody else in one unit working for 48 years.”

The company took notice of Boersema in 1977, when he was given an elaborate clock to recognize his top hardware sales, with a plaque that reads, “Congratulations Jake Boersema #1 in the Nation.”

A scrapbook filled with photos and retirement cards also tells his story: “Best of luck to the best boss I have ever had,” one note says. And in another, “Jake, you have been my mentor, you taught me a lot about myself and about everything else, thank you for believing in me.”

On Wednesday, there weren’t many shoppers in the store where, years ago, Boersema racked up sales. A few people walked aisles now short on merchandise, looking over artificial Christmas trees, mattresses and appliances.

The place is more than a retail dinosaur, or yet another department store shutting down as online sales become the norm. To Ricci, it’s more than a place. People spent their lives serving generations of customers.

“I’m sure there’ll be some tears when they close those doors for the last time,” she said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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