Kmart in limbo

Ann Kopecky

Ann Kopecky

The fate of Brookings’ Big Kmart is still up in the air as the Kmart corporation reconsiders whether to keep the store open or shut it down.

“Nothing would please me more than to have the store stay open,” Leonard Witte, Kmart store manager, said.

Kmart announced last Tuesday that it would be closing 326 stores nationwide, including the Brookings store.

A change of fate occurred late last week when Ben Bernie, Kmart’s landlord, announced that he had successfully renegotiated the business’s lease to lower the store’s rent.

Kmart had announced that it was shutting down stores with unprofitable leases, money losing locations and close proximity to competitors.

Witte said that a final decision on the fate of the store was expected within the next week as the corporation reconsiders the new events.

The latest store closings are part of Kmart’s attempts to reorganize after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protect in later 2001. The company plans to emerge from Chapter 11 in April.

The annoucement of the possible closing last week left many Brookings residents with feelings of anger and dread.

“I don’t know of anybody that wants it to close,” Dick Smith, Brookings executive director of economic development, said. “Businesses closing in a community is not a positive thing.”

According to Smith, about 70 people, most of them part-time employees, work in the store.

“The loss of jobs has a financial impact. When you don’t have money to spend and no store, it impacts sales tax revenue,” Smith said. “And of course the city never looks good with a big empty box where the building used to sit.”

Many SDSU students and faculty also felt the impact as the store was named on the closing list.

Mike Schliessmann, Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Science, goes to Kmart at least once a week.

“I choose Kmart because it’s a little more spaciously open and easier to shop,” Schliessmann said.

Schliessmann said that he hoped the store would not close because it gives people choice.

“I think it’s good to have choice. There are things I can get at Kmart that I can’t get at Wal-Mart,” Schliessmann said.

Alissa Tepley, an economics and Spanish major from Rochester, Minn. agrees.

“If Kmart closes, it will be bad for selection,” Tepley said. “I think for reasons if Wal-Mart doesn’t have it, Kmart will.”

Tepley pointed out DVD’s for an example.

“A lot of people go back and forth to see if it’s there. With only Wal-Mart as the choice, the next result would be to go to Sioux Falls and that takes time and money,” Tepley said.

For some students, the drive to Sioux Falls would be worth it.

Amber Toennies, a senior human development major from Cresbard, said that she always chooses Kmart over competitor for better prices, better parking and Martha Stewart styles.

“I feel that if they’re going to close Kmart, they better bring something in,” Toennies said. “They can’t leave Brookings stranded with just Wal-Mart. I’d rather drive to Sioux Falls.”

Tepley and Toennies both said that even though they choose Kmart, they have seen a decrease in shoppers at Kmart.

“If you look at the cars in the parking area compared to Wal-Mart, it’s a huge difference,” Tepley said.

Tepley also pointed out the new check-yourself-out system at Kmart as a reason for people to turn away.

“I think people are uncomfortable with it,” Tepley said.

#1.887591:3991668959.jpg:kmart.jpg:store has not yet been made. The impact of Kmart closing has many people wondering what the impact will be on the community.: