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By Roman Altshuler

Another local store has fallen victim to high rents in Harvard Square. In 15 days the Mass Army/Navy Store at 1436 Mass Ave. will move to a new location at 698 Mass Ave. in Central Square.

The store will soon be closing and returning to the area where it first opened some fifty years ago under the name of Central Surplus. Having moved to Harvard Square nine years ago, the store's owners have decided to relocate again.

Rachell Sanel, the store manager, cited lower rent and a need to downsize as the primary motivating concerns for the move.

"We'll be going from ten thousand square feet to three thousand so that everything will be in one room," she said. The current store has two floors and several rooms.

"The new store will be modeled after our store on Boylston St.," Sanel said.

Greater manageability and the ability to provide better customer service are the two main advantages of moving to a smaller space, she added.

Currently, most staff members have extensive knowledge of only one area of the store and have to pass customers around to other employees.

Since the new store will be smaller, "we'll have people versed in different areas," Sanel said. "Here we had people who didn't know as much. For example, customers would explain their camping needs to one staff member, and then would have to tell someone else where they're going camping and for how long."

Several employees will lose their jobs as a result of the move to the smaller space. One employee said he was the last person hired at the current location, and was told at the time that he would not be employed at the Central Square store.

The new store will also carry less merchandise. "Instead of six colors in one jacket, we'll carry two colors," Sanel said. All merchandise not sold in the current storewide sale will be moved to the new location.

Employees moving to the new store appeared enthusiastic about the relocation. "I like the area better. There are a lot less tourists and less college kids," said store employee Sean Healey. "College kids always think they own the place," he explained, although he said he has not had any problems with college students at the Harvard Square location.

Sanel said she does not know what will be moving into the current space following the store's relocation.

A spokesperson for Century Real Estate said "at the moment I don't think we have any specific tenant lined up." Sanel, however, pointed out that workers had come into the store earlier to measure the space.

Ed Mank, a Century official who deals with the building, could not be reached for comment.

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