Home Depot eyes Kmart building

Posted: Wednesday, May 14, 2003

The Home Depot, an Atlanta-based home improvement retailer, is looking closely at opening stores in the former Kmart buildings in Juneau and Kenai, a company spokesman said Tuesday.

"It's not a done deal, but we're interested in the sites," said spokesman John Simley.

In an auction held April 9, The Home Depot won its bid to take over the leases for Kmart's Juneau and Kenai stores.

Though Simley told the Empire on April 17 that The Home Depot was not interested in opening a store in the former Juneau Kmart, he acknowledged on Tuesday opening a store here was a possibility.

"We need to get a better idea of what we need to do to make the store as successful as possible," Simley said.

Juneau's 30,000 residents should generate enough business to support a large home improvement retail outlet, he said.

"We wouldn't be looking at the site in Juneau if we didn't think we could have a go at the market," Simley said.

Several Juneau stores, including Alaska Industrial Hardware, which opened in April, Don Abel Building Supplies, Valley Lumber and Good Hardware would compete with The Home Depot if it opens in Juneau.

"We work very hard at what we do," said Dennis Watson, general manager of Alaska Industrial Hardware. "In the short term, a new business always affects other businesses in town, but in the long term we don't view it as having a huge effect on our business."

The Home Depot signed a 30-day lease on the Kenai Big Kmart building to "kick the tires" on the building, Simley told the Peninsula Clarion newspaper. The company sent an architect and structural engineer, as well as store development representatives, to Kenai this month, the Clarion reported.

Simley was unable to say whether The Home Depot had taken a similar lease for the Juneau store, but he believed it likely. Representatives for The Home Depot visited the store last week, he said.

"We had an opportunity to familiarize ourselves with the buildings for the first time in the last week, so we're taking it all back to the drawing board to determine what we need to do in the building if we take over the lease," he said.

Simley could not say whether The Home Depot representatives found the Juneau Kmart building acceptable for a Home Depot store, or when The Home Depot will make any decision on the building.

"We kind of take these things one step at a time," he said.

The Home Depot has more than 1,500 stores.

Kmart Corp. announced Jan. 16 the closure of 326 stores nationwide as part of a bankruptcy reorganization plan. More than 150 employees of the Juneau Super Kmart lost jobs when the store closed April 13.

Christine Schmid can be reached at cschmid@juneauempire.com.

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