In August, Sears Holdings announced the closing of 28 more Kmart locations, including those on Paul Road in Chili and Cobblestone Court in Victor. The news comes a month after the closing of the Holt Road location in Webster.
The financial results announcement made on Aug. 24 states, “...the company informed associates at 28 Kmart stores that we will be closing these stores later this year as we continue to transform our business model so that our physical store footprint and our digital capabilities match the needs and preferences of our members.”
All but one location (Miami Beach, Florida) will close mid-November, with liquidation sales beginning Aug. 31.
The Chili location was the first to open in the Rochester area on June 10, 1976, while the Victor store opened in September 1994 and the Webster store opened in November 1990.
Rochester native John Dedie, who now lives in Pasadena, Maryland, was around to see the opening of the Kmart building, and could even remember what had been there beforehand.
“Before Kmart opened, Grants Department store opened at the Chili Paul Plaza (in the building where Bill Gray's, Dollar General, etc., are). When Grants closed, the new Kmart filled the void,” John said via email.
John even had his first job at Kmart, three years after it opened.
“I worked at Kmart from 1979-1981. I worked in the Kmart cafeteria (where I ate a lot of chocolate chip cookie dough) [and] played on the Kmart softball team as team catcher. I stopped working there when I went to [The State University of New York at] Fredonia,” John said.
He went on to describe some other fond memories he had of the establishment.
“It was fun. The store employees were a lot of young kids like me at the time. One time for Halloween someone dressed up as a pregnant nun!” John recalled. “It was MUCH busier because Kmart was the biggest store in Chili and some of the surrounding areas. (At that time there was no Walmart or Target.)
“One night I worked an overnight shift because the maintenance guy couldn't come in, and because it was a Saturday-Sunday shift it meant getting paid at time and a half. Took me three hours to clean the store, then I took a nap and shot some hoops in the store because they had a basketball backboard set up in the store,” John said.
He also experienced some of his firsts and lasts while working there, like his first hangover when going to what was formerly the Ugly Mug in the Chili-Paul Plaza for his going-away party that was held for him before he left for college, and chewing tobacco.
“Awful!!!” John said.
While the closing of a community staple brings out the nostalgia in everyone, nostalgia doesn’t turn a profit these days.
“We have been strategically and aggressively evaluating our store space and productivity, and have accelerated the closing of unprofitable stores as previously announced,” said Howard Riefs, Sears Holdings’ Director of Corporate Communications.
Many, including John, have stated that with the introduction of newer, busier and higher-inventory stores to the area, they were surprised that Kmart has managed to stand the test of time for so long.
“Even in the mid-1980s I was surprised it was still around because of places like Marketplace Mall. In the 1980's, the ‘in’ thing was to go to a mall to shop. Now you go to Walmart. Walmart has EVERYTHING, and Target seems more classy,” John said.
The closing of a store not only brings back some memories, but also brings forth some worries about the economic situation of a municipality.
Kathy Rayburn, director of Victor Economic Development at the Victor Local Development Corporation, shared what the future holds for Victor in the wakes of its Kmart closing.
“The closing of any business in a community carries an impact with respect to sales tax and employment. Kmart over the years has employed a significant number of full- and part-time workers and has been a part of the Victor community for many years,” Rayburn said.
“J.Fiore & Co. represents the plaza as the leasing agent and has been very aggressive in attracting new retail to that plaza – The Carrot Company, Tuesday Morning and TJ Maxx are the newest additions to the plaza,” she continued. “I am not aware of plans for the Kmart space, but very confident it will be filled with something that benefits the community.”
The company hopes that its ShopYourWay rewards program, which was instituted in 2012, will help reinforce some of the Kmart fanbase.
“We understand that members may be disappointed when we close a store, but our Shop Your Way membership platform, websites and mobile apps allow us to maintain these valued relationships long after a store closes its doors,” said Riefs. “As a result, we hope to retain a portion of the sales previously associated with these stores by maintaining our relationships with the members who shopped these locations.”
The ShopYourWay membership platform is free, and works like a majority of store programs do – buy items and earn rewards that can go towards future purchases. Members can get discounts on expensive, brand-name items, and earn cash back on qualifying purchases. Membership perks can be used at Sears, Kmart, Lands’ End, Craftsman, Kenmore and mygofer, in-store and online.