If you’ve wondered what it would be like to drive a hundred miles to buy cheap underwear, you’re likely to soon find out.
Kmart’s store in Jackson, often rumored to be closing in recent years, may actually be on its way out.
Kmart shoppers: This is it. Jackson’s only big box store seems to be getting ready to turn out the blue light.
Many involved said they couldn’t talk or didn’t know, but Teton Media Works, parent company of the Jackson Hole Daily, received a message Thursday from a California company that said it “has been authorized to handle the store closing ad campaign for Kmart located at 510 U.S. Highway 89, Jackson, WY 83002.”
People at Eldon W. Gottschalk and Associates said they couldn’t talk about the plans of Sears Holdings, Kmart’s owner. But they confirmed the reality of the ad campaign.
The plan is to begin advertising in the last week of November and to continue for about three months. That would be near the end of February.
Jackson Kmart manager Mike Swaboski said Thursday he could not answer questions about the future of the store he has overseen since the spring of 2018.
Phone and email messages to Sears Holdings were not answered, but a Wall Street Journal story said Sears had confirmed to the paper that it would shut 96 stores by February. That would mean a cut from 425 Kmarts and Sears stores to 182 in a year; the company had about 2,000 locations five years ago. The Jackson store is the last in Wyoming after closings in 2018 in Casper and Gillette. USA Today listed the Jackson location as among those closing.
The landlord of the property said he had heard nothing from Sears but didn’t discount the idea of the store shutting its doors.
“I have absolutely no information that they’re closing,” said Judd Abrams, head of Maury Abrams LLC, the California company that developed the property. “But nothing would surprise me, though I have no knowledge from the company.”
Arguing against a closing is that the death of the Jackson Kmart has been rumored sporadically for years: Each prediction of a Kmartless Jackson proved untrue. On the other hand, Kmart has been on the ropes for almost two decades, running far back in the pack in competition against Walmart and Target and internet sellers.
Kmart Plaza was developed in the late 1980s by Maury Abrams, father of Judd. Kmart opened its 69,000-square-foot store in spring 1991. Maury Abrams LLC owns the entire 8-acre parcel at the corner of Highway 89 and Maple Way, and is also landlord to all the other businesses in another 22,000 square feet of neighboring retail space.
The Abrams family, living in California, has Jackson Hole connections dating to about 1970, Judd Abrams said.
The Jackson Kmart was apparently on top of the world as late as 1998, when it sought town approval to expand the store by about 8,600 square feet. That work was never done.
In following years Kmart remade itself repeatedly, though many changes didn’t last. In 2000 it did a remodel that expanded its food offerings and opened one-hour photo finishing as it began calling the store a “Big K.”
It added a Little Caesars franchise in the front of the store in 2014, but that effort lasted only about two years. The store closed its pharmacy on short notice in October 2017. In a recent makeover a line of appliances and mattresses was added in the wake of the roof collapse that closed the Sears store at Powderhorn Mall.
The Kmart corporation declared bankruptcy in 2002 and began cutting its 24,000-person staff and shutting stores. Jackson Kmart manager Bruce Lofthus said then the Jackson store was safe, that “We’re a very busy Kmart.” Sears, with its own problems, bought Kmart during its recovery from bankruptcy.
Jackson managers had to deny rumours of a shutdown in 2011 when Sears announced it would close more than 100 Kmarts around the country. Whispers of closings have recurred since then. In 2018, Sears Holdings announced its own bankruptcy and said it would close about 80 Sears and Kmart stores.
Landlord Abrams was hopeful: “I hope they don’t close,” he said.
But, pointing to the company’s recent hard times, he wasn’t foolishly optimistic.
He said Kmart is current on its rent and that Sears Holdings “has several years left on their lease.”
Sears could continue to pay its rent and find a new tenant, Abrams said. Its lease terms wouldn’t prevent some remodeling so that the space could accommodate more than one business, he said.
Abrams said he has little contact with Sears and that the corporation “doesn’t communicate strategy” with him. If there were to be a closing plan, he said, “I’ll probably be last to know.”