When I was a kid my dad and I had a Friday routine. We'd go to Flourtown, pick up a pizza from Antonio's, get some fruit danish from his old family friend who ran a bakery next door to the pizza place, and then hit up the KMart that served as the anchor of that suburban Philadelphia strip mall. That KMart store was probably single handedly responsible for more of the vintage Preserve collection than any other one store. Well, ok probably the Cheltenham Toys R Us - but it was definitely a close second.
Few things can be more visceral in the memory of a fat young toy nerd in Philly than the smell of hot pepperoni on a freshly made, disasterously unhealthy pizza, the promise of cinnamon buns and danish for breakfast the next day, jostling reassuringly on the seat in the back next to the pizza, and the excitement of seeing what new Go Bots, Transformers and GI Joe might be waiting to delight us at KMart. For that reason alone, I've always had a special place in my heart for the store, even though they do tend to be a little less well kept-up than one would hope in recent years.
Fast forward to modern times - where I've had a KMart in my small town since I moved here some 16 years ago. Recently, the evil Walmart sprang up right behind it, in the most unfair case of geographic retail warfare one could imagine for such a little 'burb as this. Over the years since, though, the KMart stayed strong, somehow making the sales to stick around, and providing a welcome retail toy outlet as well as consistent store exclusives with the big brands, year over year.
And so it was with not a small amount of sadness that I heard earlier this week that KMart was shutting down. I think everyone knew it was coming, or at least suspected as much, but it was sad to be confronted with the reality, especially given the geographic isolation and relative lack of options that this town boasts - now one further reduced. After shooting yesterday's Imaginext video, I figured it might be fun to record my last toy run to KMart, and I happened to be downtown today. The upstate New York version of the National Anthem was on the classic rock station, and the sky was blue and full of fluffy white clouds, so I started filming mid-drive. Sure it's rough, but it's one take and I sort of like it. Here is my last KMart toy run, complete with long intro.
Heartbreaking postscript - I learned from the cashier that they in fact did not choose to go out of business due to poor sales - rather their crooked landlord did not renew their lease after over 30 years. He claims to have another tenant lined up who will 'pay more' and I guess provide him with more security than he believed was likely with the Big K. Well, I think that sucks, and over 60 hard working people are losing their jobs, some of whom I learned had actually been there for those whole 30 years! Thanks for the toys, the tools, and the hard work over the years KMart. You went out before your time, and not because you went broke, so at least maybe the head may be held a little higher for it. Posted by charlie on August 4th 2011, 08:07 PM Share
August 4th, 10:13 PM
K-Mart just can't turn over the merch quick enough. It's either the brand-newest stuff, or stone-old stuff.
I used to get the same feeling at a Bradlees. They were the place to go for a first-strike of new Beast Wars - but forget about any restocks. Or Jamesway, Caldor, etc.
August 5th, 06:17 AM
That is definitely true, and certainly a change from the old days. Well, so far as I remember - maybe you have clearer recollection of the KMarts of olde that you can share?
At least the silver lining was that this store wasn't closing due to a commandment from KMart Corporate, so maybe they haven't quite given up yet!
August 5th, 10:56 AM
I still think Kmart is the most depressing nationwide store in existence. It doesn't matter what your location in time and space is, that Kmart you find yourself in will be the the most dismal place around, full of hopeless looking customers. That can't be helping their sales numbers...
August 5th, 11:12 AM
Eh - at least those depressed looking customers had the wherewithal not to go to Walmart!