A retail giant nears extinction, and exits New Jersey
I still remember how K-Mart used to have a nice restaurant in it when I was three. I remember going there with my mom when she was pregnant with my little brother and getting a lego toy with my fries. It's weird how vivid of a memory that is lol. It's one of those "I'm this old" stories like remembering when the Berlin Wall came down.
Addison: Just wanted to share that I've been writing about the Sears-Kmart decline over the years and I wrote an article last year about what caused Kmart, which was such a massive presence for decades dwindle to nothing. Here is the article if you are interested. https://medium.com/mind-talk/the-end-of-kmart-and-the-media-narrative-8a0740776ada
I wonder if the massive parking lots could become a kind of town square some day. Some parking lots have one or two food trucks around the edges. At dusk on a pleasant evening, a taco dinner at a folding table in a parking lot isn't so bad.
My first job was at Kmart right as they were reviving the blue light special for the last time. In high school English class I wrote a parody of Dante’s Inferno about the rings of working at Kmart hell. So things were already bad in 1998.
I live close to this K-Mart and there are a lot of people who feel bad that it’s gone. It was a part of childhood for your parents to take you to K-Mart to look at the toy section! But here in Bergen County (and you’re right, the traffic is horrendous) we are seeing more and more empty store fronts that stay empty for years. And big chunks of land like this get turned into condo complexes which only add to the traffic problem because the surrounding streets were never designed for that many cars.
Your piece about K-Mart is interesting, because the site of a local K-Mart here in MN has quite a history. The site apparently was an outdoor amusement park a hundred years ago. At one point, it was an old-school enclosed mall back in the 1950s and 1960s. Which later was partially torn down and turned into a large l-shaped strip mall of stores anchored by a K-Mart. When it closed several years ago the long part of the L-shaped strip mall was renovated, but the site of the K-Mart and its massive parking lot was turned into a series of bulky multi-story apartment buildings.
Funny… I’m in Australia and Kmart is THE darling budget department store. They’ve pulled off a marketing coup involving news advertorials, mumfluencers, and copying an ikea/Nordic aesthetic that photographs well for Instagram. Then they backed up with genuinely cheap and surprisingly okay-decent quality products. Shame it doesn’t translate across the Pacific.
I worked for Caldor's in Avon, CT, a NY/New England department store chain from 1975-1977. They went out of business in 1999. Who moved into their big-box space? Marshall's, another big-box retailer. Marshall's is still there. There is also a Marshall's 1.5 miles from my current home in Maryland.
The old K-mart I remember as a kid was in a small mall. I remember it cuz they had a few arcade games. I rarely got to play those as a kid. The K-mart's long gone. A big box grocer, Rainbow, came and went. A Home Depot and other shops were there. The Home Depot's gone too, replaced with the other usual chain retailers and anchored by a huge 100,000 foot Hy-Vee ( Iowa based grocer ).
My favorite K-mart moment was at the one down on Alameda in Denver. We got hit with a nasty blizzard, most everything was closed. Out of boredom + need to get out, I walked down to the store to grab a couple things knowing it was probably closed.
I got there and there were several hand written signs. Every one of them said "We are close". Not closed, close. Multiple signs.