Mike Terry, Deseret Morning News
Shopper Maranda Bybee of Pocatello sits in a vacant makeup counter chair at Macy's in the ZCMI Center Saturday.

First it was ZCMI; then Meier & Frank. Now it's Macy's — or, at least, it was.

The downtown department store closed Saturday in preparation for construction on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' City Creek Center, but it will open again Monday, temporarily, under yet another banner.

"It's been really busy," store manager Kim Wittman said Saturday. "Everybody's been so confused."

The confusion comes as Macy's has announced its Saturday closure but isn't really closing. The company has hired retail specialists Gordon Brothers to oversee the next month or so of the store's liquidation sale. And while the store may no longer be called Macy's, it will still be selling the same items rung up by the same employees.

Some employees say they have heard the store will be open into March and possibly beyond. Wittman said the plan is for the clearance sale to continue until the last item is sold. And if that process is drawn out long enough to butt into the church's demolition plans?

"It won't," Wittman said. "They're professionals at this."

Church officials haven't said when they plan to tear down the ZCMI Center, Macy's home. The mall and neighboring Crossroads Plaza are coming down to make way for City Creek Center, a 20-acre retail-residential-office complex set to open in 2011.

When the center opens, Macy's will too, in roughly the same spot on Main Street between South Temple and 100 South.

It's a historic site. The store started as the LDS church's Zions Co-operative Mercantile Institution in 1868. There it remained, seeing changes such as the addition of the ZCMI Center around it in 1975 and its purchase by The May Co. in 1999. May converted to the store to a Meier & Frank, but that didn't last long.

In 2006, Federated Department Stores bought May, and Utah's Meier & Frank stores, including the downtown location, became Macy's.

Through it all, the original ZCMI facade has been preserved and still sits on Main Street. It will go into storage for the next four years and will then make its comeback in front of the new City Creek Center Macy's.

A number of other historic items — photographs and the like — have also been preserved, and some of them will also feature in the new store, Wittman said.

The store's closure is bittersweet for longtime employees and customers alike. Wittman said employees who want to transfer to other Macy's locations are being accommodated, while others have decided to go into early retirement or seek new jobs.

"People don't like change a lot," she said. "It's a big change for everybody. But there's a lot of excitement" for what's coming — something "bigger and better," she added.

E-mail: dsmeath@desnews.com