Juneau's Super Kmart will shut its doors for good Sunday, April 13, nearly three months after the Kmart Corp. announced plans to close it and the four other Kmart stores in the state.
"We're down to the point where if you see something and you like it, you should go ahead and buy it," said Debbie Saddler, the store's general manager. She was unable to give specific numbers for how much of the Kmart inventory has been liquidated since the store's closure was announced Jan. 14.
Of the 133 workers employed by the store in January, 80 to 90 remain and will keep their jobs until the store closes, Saddler said. At that point, about a dozen employees will go to work for other Kmarts throughout the United States. The rest plan to stay in Juneau to find work, Saddler said.
"Most people wanted to stay here," she said. "The state has some really good programs for them through the Department of Labor. They've been wonderful - I can't speak highly enough about them."
The department started a dislocated worker program for Kmart employees under the federal Workforce Investment Act immediately after the closure was announced, said Janet Thompson, program coordinator.
"In Juneau we went on-site right away and we had a meeting with the workers and it included somebody from employment insurance, the Juneau Job Center, Child Support Enforcement - we tried to provide immediate information to people so they would know what's available to them," Thompson said.
The dislocated worker program provides funding for Kmart employees to be trained in different fields or to travel to job interviews elsewhere in the state. If the employees find a job outside of Juneau through the program, it may pay relocation costs, Thompson said.
As of this week, a couple of dozen Kmart employees are using the job training services provided by the DOL at the Juneau Job Center, said Mary Hymer, a community development specialist with the DOL and the Southeast regional manager for job training programs.
"Traditionally in large closures like this, usually we don't see a lot of movement until the store actually closes," she said. "I think that's when we'll see a few more people coming in."
As for the Kmart building, it looks as if another retailer will take over the lease, although which retailer and when a new store will open is up in the air.
"The deadline for bids on the Kmart lease is Friday," said Eric Hochman of Kimco Realty, the commercial operation based in New Hyde Park, N.Y., that is marketing the lease or sale of all 326 Kmart stores closing this spring.
Hochman was unable to say how many bids the lease has received, or from what bidders.
"I understand Home Depot has put a bid on the building," said Saddler.
Kmart Corp. was unable to confirm a bid from The Home Depot, the nation's largest home improvement retailer. Calls to Home Depot were not returned by the Empire's deadline.
Christine Schmid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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