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Local News

Kmarts closing in Joliet and New Lenox

Kmart stores in Joliet and New Lenox are closing.

The retailer said Monday that liquidation sales are set to begin Thursday at both stores, which will close in mid-December.

The Kmart store in Joliet has been at the corner of Jefferson Street and Larkin Avenue, one of the busiest intersections in the city, since 1965.

“We have been strategically and aggressively evaluating our store space and productivity, and are accelerating the closing of unprofitable stores as we previously announced,” Kmart spokesman Howard Riefs said in an email.

The company did not confirm how many stores are closing. According to a Business Insider report, the local stores are among 64 Kmarts that will close in 28 states.

Riefs did not provide the number of employees at the stores. He said most are part-time or hourly workers. Employees who are eligible will receive severance and have the opportunity to apply at other area Sears or Kmart stores, he said.

Both retailers are part of Sears Holdings Corp., which is based in Hoffman Estates.

Employees at the Kmart in Joliet said mid-afternoon Monday that they were still waiting to hear from the company after getting news online that the store could close.

“We’re hearing everything online,” one employee said. “They haven’t told us yet.”

The store was the 98th Kmart opened by what was then the S.S. Kresge Co.

It opened just three years after the first Kmarts opened in 1962 in the Detroit area.

A Herald-News story about the local store opening in September 1965 reported that Kmarts were opening at the rate of 35 to 40 a year. The store manager was quoted saying that the parking lot had spaces for nearly 1,000 cars.

In more recent years, some of that parking lot has been occupied by the opening of a gas station as well as the construction of White Castle and Checkers restaurants.

The amount of business at the Kmart in Joliet has trickled down to the point that only a fraction of the remaining parking spaces are occupied by Kmart shoppers. Large numbers of pigeons are in the lot daily.

“Unfortunately, they have been on the waiting list for this happening,” said Steve Jones, economic development director for Joliet.

Jones said Joliet would try to contact Kmart to learn the company’s plans for the building, including whether the site would be part of a general turnover to another retailer.

“It’s kind of hard to get big boxes to turn over quickly to new users,” he said.

But Jefferson Street has seen redevelopment that has turned older sites to new uses. The old Jefferson Square mall was demolished and replaced by the Menards and Wal-Mart stores that anchor the shopping center that is there now.

The New Lenox store is near an Interstate 80 interchange that already had attracted interest before Kmart announced the closing, said Nancy Dye, economic development coordinator for the village.

“It’s such recent news, and it’s got such great visibility that I’m sure we’re going to get interest,” Dye said.

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