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Kmart Closing

February shutdown clears way for Best Buy and Hobby Lobby; neighbors hope for revitalized shopping center
Friday, December 5, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:28 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Some local retailers think that closing the 33-year-old Kmart store at 2001 W. Worley St. will help revitalize business around the struggling discount store.

While more than 100 workers will lose their jobs when the store closes in February, the move clears the way for two new franchise retailers to move into Columbia. According to KOMU/Channel 8 and the Columbia Tribune, Best Buy, an electronics retailer, and Hobby Lobby, an Oklahoma City-based arts and crafts chain, will move into the 103,000-square-foot building next year.

“I think that’s awesome,” said Gus Aslanidis of G&D Steakhouse. “That building is the main anchor here. Having those stores that will bring in new people will liven up the whole area.”

Aslanidis said when Kmart’s national chain declared bankruptcy, he saw a noticeable decline in business.

Kmart announced the store’s closing on Thursday. Spokesman Stephen Pagnani said the closing is “due to redevelopment of the property” and not linked to the company’s finances. Another store in Atlanta will close for the same reason, he said.

Pagnani said the Columbia and Atlanta stores are the first to close since Kmart emerged from bankruptcy in May. He said Kmart does not plan to open any new stores until 2005.

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Bridget Hollis, an employee of Top Nail & Hair, which is located in the same plaza as Kmart, said the retailer seems to attract only a small group of loyal shoppers.

“It’s lucky if you see 60 cars in the parking lot,” she said.

Donna Clark is one of those loyal shoppers.

“I shop here at least a couple of times a month because it is less crowded than other stores,” said Clark, whose son is a manager at another Columbia retail store. “It’s a shame it’s closing down.”

Kmart has struggled to compete with Wal-Mart and Target, said Pamela Norum, an associate professor in MU’s college of human environmental sciences. Best Buy and Hobby Lobby have the potential to revitalize the shopping center at Worley Street, she said.

Norum said Hobby Lobby caters to a niche market of hobbyists and should present a competitive challenge to Michaels Stores Inc., which opened its Ash Street store in October 2002. Michaels Stores Inc. is the nation’s top-selling craft retailer.

Don Laird, president of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, said the closing comes at a “tough time of the year” for the 107 Kmart employees who will lose their jobs. But he expressed optimism about new business coming to town.

In January, Kmart laid off about 37,000 workers and closed 326 stores. The company has closed nearly 600 stores since 2002 as part of its bankruptcy reorganization, Pagnani said.

Kmart closed six other Missouri locations in Arnold, Blue Springs, St. Louis, Grandview, Overland and Crestwood, he said. Kmart still operates 29 stores in Missouri and about 1,500 stores nationwide, Pagnani said.

Pagnani said Kmart does not usually transfer employees to other retailers but often informs employees at closing stores of job openings.

Christine Stanley contributed to this report.


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