Kmart will close all but six stores stateside, maintaining another six in the territories, by the end of the 2021. There are around 400 RadioShack stores still around and over 600 JCPenney stores, mostly in malls owned by JCPenney’s ownership group. Just 21 Sears stores remain.
Once upon a time, Kmart was the place to go. You could buy Star Wars toys there. They had machines that would dispense something sort of like Skittles for twenty-five cents. It was amazing. Oh, I was a child at that point, if that wasn’t clear. As an adult, I went to Kmarts only when nothing else was available. A conveniently located Kmart was still worth checking out, but I would not drive past a Walmart or a Target to get to one.
As we consider that Kmart will absolutely go out of business by the end of 2022, and as we consider that there is a chain of department stores located entirely in the state of Maine that has more locations that Kmart does even if you include the ones in U.S. territories, we are called to ponder: just where are the last six Kmarts? This may be the last time we see them in the wild.
The Unyielding: Hamilton, Montana
Kmart is a chain that’s had a lot of identities. One of its earliest is the red K/turquoise mart logo that you can see in this 1970s-era commercial on YouTube. But if you’d like to see it in person, you’ll need to head to Hamilton, Montana, the home of Kmart #9808. The company’s website kindly informs you that there are no other Kmart stores within 50 miles of the company’s Hamilton location, and that’s true. There aren’t any other Kmarts in Montana, even. Or in the Mountain Time zone.
The Irreplaceable: Key West, Florida
The Florida Keys are somewhat isolated from the rest of the country and, as a result, have been cushioned from Kmart’s demise a little bit. But in April, the Keys Weekly raised the alarms that stores in Key Largo and Marathon would close this year and something would need to replace it to continue to serve those communities. Readers picked Target but got a Publix instead, at least in Key Largo. The Key West store, located in a former Ames, is the last one on the keys and one of just two in the state.
La Intersección: Miami, Florida
The 114,000 square foot Kmart at Kendale Lakes Plaza serves a mostly Spanish-speaking population. That’s also true of the Walmart and Target that are less than a mile down the road, but the Kmart is located at a major intersection – exactly where it’s been since 1977. It’s an unusual example of a Kmart in a prime commercial location and one that’s served a specific community for a long time.
The Baby: Bridgehampton, New York
With its distinctive blue light logo, the Kmart in Bridgehampton, New York screams “oh, right, Martha Stewart’s daughter used to live near Bridgehampton.” Located right in the Hamptons, this store is the last reminder that there was a time when Kmart wasn’t just a viable retailer, it was the choice retailer. In 2001, it introduced self-checkout, a feature that made Kmart look almost impossibly futuristic compared to slow-paced places like Target and Walmart. A longtime partnership with Martha Stewart meant that chic shoppers flocked to Kmart. Stewart even had a chance to acquire Kmart but it went downhill and, in 2009, Stewart’s merchandise line at Kmart ended after she publicly criticized the quality of the products.
The Weary: Avenel, New Jersey
If you bought a bicycle at the Kmart in Avenel, New Jersey, it would take you less than twenty minutes to ride it to Amazon’s mammoth fulfilment center across town. “Even years ago, I though it looked so shabby it had to be on its last legs,” radio DJ Jeff Deminski wrote in May. How come it stuck around? Most surviving Kmarts are located in buildings owned by TransformCo, the parent of Kmart and Sears. First opened in 1979, the only costs for the Avenel store are probably utilities and a handful of minimum wage employees.
The Fighter: Westwood, New Jersey
In August 2020, a YouTube user visited the Westwood, New Jersey Kmart location and filmed it. It’s pretty surreal, not in the least because the store has made a valiant effort to stay stocked. Shelves might not be full, but the store has few barren areas. Kmart appears to have adopted Best Yet as its store brand and other brands weren’t really on display. An coin-operated carousel ride and a presumably no longer operating Flintstones-esque amusement out front bring back memories of quarters dropped into thirty second rides outside other Kmarts long gone.