Rescue effort for California retailer Gottschalks foundering

FRESNO, Calif. — Even in the worst of times, when the economy provided little hope, California's Central Valley at least had Gottschalks.

Now that's in danger, too.

Gottschalks Inc., the midpriced department store chain based in Fresno, might go out of business. A rescue plan with a Chinese merchant hasn't yet panned out. Negotiations are continuing, but Gottschalks said it could run out of money by the end of January.

The company's demise would inflict yet another wound on this mostly working-class city. Foreclosures occur here at more than twice the national average, and unemployment is at 12.1 percent, compared with 8.4 percent statewide. Even Fresno's minor league hockey team just folded, cutting short its 41st season.

And Gottschalks is on the brink.

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