JCPenney is a store that may have been around since 1902, but it was not always known by its current title. Wednesday morning, Jonica Bridges, manager of the Sunnyside JCPenney store, told members of the Sunnyside Daybreak Rotary Club that when the retail business first started it was known as the Golden Rule.
She explained that it was called the Golden Rule because the owners of the store felt that living by the golden rule was important, which meant working to treat customers like family.
It wasn't until the 1920s that the Golden Rule made the change to JCPenney, a name that reflected the involvement of James Cash Penney in the business. Bridges said when Penney took over the chain of stores, he was sure to maintain the importance of the golden rule.
As Bridges talked about the history of the chain, she added that JCPenney is a store with which many people have some history.
Bridges said her history with the store went all the way back to when she was a child. She said there was a JCPenney store in the small Idaho town where she grew up.
Then after attending college at Washington State University, Bridges said she went to work for the company. She said she attended training in Spokane and was then transferred to a store in Fresno, Calif.
Bridges said she spent some time at the Fresno store, before slowly starting to work her way north. She said in order to move to Yakima, she quit her job with JCPenney only to realize in the end that there was a position for her at the Yakima store.
It wasn't until she was asked to come to Sunnyside to help with the opening of the new store at the Mid-Valley Mall that she started working in the Lower Valley.
The Sunnyside JCPenney store is a busy place. Bridges said between 1989 and 2004 the local store has tripled its business.
"Tripling in 15 years is amazing," Bridges said.
She said she attributes the growth to not only the growth of the company, but also to the growth of the local community.
Bridges said if things continue as they are, the store should continue to look very strong. She noted that if things change, such as the opening of a JCPenney store in the Union Gap-area, things could change for the Sunnyside store.
"I feel our greatest competition is outside our Valley," Bridges said, noting that she currently considers the Columbia Center store in Kennewick to be her biggest competition.
Over the years, Bridges said the Sunnyside store has received its fair share of honors. She said the store has received the company's highest award, the Chairman's Award, on several occasions. Bridges said the award is issued to the stores in the top 15 percent that beat the previous year's sales. She said the store received the Chairman's Award most recently in 2003.
Bridges said the top 15 percent of JCPenney stores typically includes about 152 stores nationwide. She noted that in November the Sunnyside store was ranked 43rd in the nation.
The most recent bit of recognition the Sunnyside JCPenney store received was for its phenomenal sales over the Thanksgiving holiday. Bridges said the store was more than 33 percent above its sales last year, which made Sunnyside the number one store in its region. The region includes stores from Washington to Texas, covering about one-third of the country.
"It meant a lot to be recognized and to be able to share that first with my employees and then with you," Bridges said to the group of Rotarians.