ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP — The worst kept secret in Ashtabula is out.

Dillard’s in the Ashtabula Mall is closing Dec. 3, store manager Cliff Phoenix said Friday, amidst empty aisles, folded-up racks and stacked-up mannequins.

“Progressively, we will be taking mark downs,” he said. “As December nears, we will be taking deeper cuts.”

The announcement ends more than a month of speculation and rumors of the store’s closing.

“I wish they wouldn’t close,” said Diane Gruber of Geneva. “Dillard’s was one of the nicer stores I could count on to always have what I needed.”

Julie Grandbouche of Plymouth Township said she’s disappointed to hear the store is closing.

“We don’t have a lot of places to get nicer items,” she said.

Ashtabula Mall officials said they heard the rumors, too, but as of Friday, Dillard’s had not notified them of any official plans to move out of the mall, said Meghann Gault, senior marketing manager.

Most of Dillard’s 330 stores are in the South. There are about 45 in Florida.

Cabot Investment Properties of Boston bought the mall and surrounding land in August from the Cafaro Co. of Youngstown, with plans to bring in more restaurants and stores.

In the past month or so, Famous Labels, a Deb Shops and Dunham’s Sports have opened up shop in the mall.

The Cafaro Co. built the mall in Ashtabula Township and opened it in 1992.

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