After Jackson Hole shoppers wiped away their tears upon hearing the news of the impending disappearance of Kmart — oh, OK, they didn’t. There were no tears. A few questions but nary a sniff.
Despite the work of a succession of Kmart managers over the years and repeated remodeling, reworking and rebranding, Kmart failed to find a place in the hearts of most Jacksonites. People loved to gripe about the place. For the past 28 years.
So when news broke last week that our Kmart had finally made the list of Kmarts around the country that will be gone forever, the talk almost immediately turned to what people would like to see replace the big empty space it will leave behind. The most common answer to the question was: Target.
Not always Target, not just Target, but mostly Target.
“The whole time we lived there all I wanted was someone to raze that Kmart to the ground and give us a Target,” one women wrote in the Jackson Hole News&Guide’s Facebook page. “It was the worst and it was our only choice. And a Trader Joe’s. That would have been really nice.”
Though the current Kmart manager, Mike Swaboski, referred questions to Sears Holdings, and Sears Holdings has not answered attempts for comment, an ad campaign is scheduled to begin about a week from now announcing a closing sale for Kmart. The length of the planned campaign indicates the space occupied by Kmart at 501 U.S. Highway 89 in Jackson will be up for grabs by the end of February. That’s about 69,000 square feet of building, among the largest in town.
The developer of Kmart Plaza, Maury Abrams, passed on the building and another 22,000 square feet of retail space on the 8-acre parcel to his son. Judd Abrams said last week that the lease held by Sears is paid up current and runs for several more years. Abrams said Sears could put just about anything in the space it wants, or sublease it, as long as the building remains intact.
Target, as mentioned, seemed to be the dream of many people.
“A Target would be phenomenal!” said another Facebook poster.
Another was more emphatic: “TARGET TARGET TARGET,” she wrote.
Others also endorsed Target. Here’s a sampling of what people had to say, serious and not, about what should happen at the prominent location.
• “Bring back Pamida!”
• “Trader Joe’s!”
• “You’ll have a Walmart soon now.”
• “How ‘bout a bank nobody ever heard of?”
• “Maybe we can have a cute little ‘boutique’ big box store. Something you’d only find in Jackson Hole where everything actually costs more instead of less.”
• “Why not create a mini ‘mall’ that would give priority to locals who otherwise can’t afford a high rent in town or in the Village and create a ‘food court’ in the center again with local chefs/restaurateurs who would not be able to afford the rent for a large restaurant?”
• “Dick’s Sporting Goods, really, anything but Walmart.”
• “Sam’s Club is great. They have a lot, would be good for all the restaurants to buy from, too. Could have a small Walmart, attached for clothing, toys, automotive section.”
Other posters took the opportunity to drive a few nails in Kmart’s coffin and dance around it, not willing to turn sentimental but preferring to remember Kmart disappointments:
• “I’m glad they’re closing in a way,” one man wrote. “Poor customer service, always long checkout lines, and employees that don’t care or you just don’t understand clearly.”
• “It’s really not what it used to be anyway. I’m kinda sad because they used to have some OK stuff and just a good place to run in and get something.”
• “I thought it closed months ago.”
• “Kmart in Jackson has been closing its doors in Jackson for at least 30-plus years now.”
• “That Kmart is the worst, feels like a different dysfunctional universe in there, a bit like the upside down, but with more stuff you don’t want and can’t find.”
And others just rolled with the news and promised life would go on:
“I lived in Jackson before Kmart, how did we survive?” one man posted.
Another agreed: “Those of us who have lived here for a few years know what it was like to drive 90 miles to buy just about everything we needed,” he wrote. “It wasn’t too long ago that we had to drive to Idaho Falls just to get lettuce other than the head variety.”
Sears Holdings took over Kmart in a bankruptcy in 2002 and immediately began closing stores. The Jackson Kmart survived several cutbacks over the years before last week’s announcement that another 96 stores would close by February.
The most recent closing will reduce the Kmart and Sears roster from 425 to 182 in a year. Five years ago the total was about 2,000 stores.
The Jackson Kmart is the last in Wyoming.
It’s also been a part of the tourism business for at least one woman, unless she was kidding.
“I love going to Kmart when vacationing in Jackson Hole!” she wrote.