Herberger's new clearance center in Maplewood is open for business. The official grand opening isn't until Friday, but the outlet opened "softly" on Wednesday.

Most of the customers were in the neighborhood and noticed the "now open" signs, including Denise Aljets of St. Paul who thought the outlet's prices were "better than Wal-Mart's."

It's the mid-line department store's first free-standing outlet store, although there is a smaller clearance center on part of the second floor in the St. Paul Midway location.  Parent company Bon-Ton operates 271 department stores in 25 states, including Younkers and Carson Pirie Scott, but the new Herberger's outlet is only the 4th outlet in the chain. .Bon-Ton has two Carson Pirie Scott clearance centers in Chicago and one Boston Store outlet in Milwaukee.

The 27,000 square foot space in a former OfficeMax includes a large selection of ladies, kids and men's clothing, accessories, shoes and home goods at discounts of 60 to 80 percent. All of the merchandise comes from full-line Bon-Ton stores (Herberger's, Boston Store, Elder-Beerman and others) that went unsold at the end of last year's spring/summer season. None of the goods are special purchase items made specifically for the outlet, said store manager Brian Schinke.

The clearance is located in the Birch Run Station shopping Center at 1717 Beam Ave. in Maplewood. The store is open 9;30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. weekdays and Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays. Call 651-777-6134 for more information.

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