Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Last Super Kmart in Georgia


Kmart these days has a lot in common with a former discounter that is slowly being forgotten: Zayre. Like Zayre, Kmart was once a leading retailer covering large areas of the country (actually all for Kmart) that fell under poor management and began to decline. Like Zayre, it earned a reputation for being poorly stocked and having a poor selection. Like Zayre, it has earned a reputation as low-class or basically a ghetto store. What is left to be answered is will it disappear in 2008 like Zayre did 20 years earlier in 1988? While Zayre lived on awhile as Ames, it was the big lead weight that eventually sunk everything it landed on...in its case the entire Ames chain. Kmart and Zayre indeed have a lot in common, and time will tell if Kmart sinks Sears the way that Zayre sunk Ames.


What Zayre did not have was supercenters. They did not exist when Zayre was around, but Kmart still has a few. In fact, there is only one left in the entire state of Georgia: Rome. I still have a receipt from the Gainesville location during its going out of business sale back in 2003, so it is a treat to see that one remains. Indeed, the Super Kmart in Rome exists as an anomoly and possibly a prototype in a town where it must compete with two Wal-Mart supercenters. The only ace it does have...Target so far has not shown any interest in this small city in Northwest Georgia. The nearest bullseye is in Cartersville over 20 miles away.


While the Super Kmart in Rome is quite nice, it definitely tends to serve a more diverse clientele than many Romans would prefer to mingle with. It was not always that way, but it did not help when Supercenter #2 opened down on U.S. 411. While the Super Kmart is still in the commerce center of the city, it has a tough time competing. For me, I'm just glad it's there to offer an alternative. It is actually a very clean and nice store inside with quite attractive decor and a decent selection for Kmart. In fact, it is not unlikely this will end up being one of the first Sears Grand stores in Georgia. The Super Kmart also has a service station called K Express in front of the store, and I have fueled up there many times trying to take the edge off of the soaring gas prices.


Just as additional information, the Super Kmart is oddly located right across from what was once Rome's major mall: Riverbend Mall on the site of East Rome High School, which was demolished in the early 1990's for the store.

Photos featured here include Super Kmart in 2006 with its new orange and green theme, photo in 2005 with more Wal-Mart like colors, fading sign on Turner McCall Blvd. (U.S. 27) with a Kroger sign beneath. The Kroger has since moved across the street into the redeveloped Riverbend Mall, now a strip center. The last photo is of the K Express service station in front of the store.

12 comments:

  1. and time will tell if Kmart sinks Sears the way that Zayre sunk Ames.

    I need some help pulling this stake out of my heart you just lunged in there.....

    I don't want to think of a retail landscape without Sears. It's a shadow of its once-greatness, I'll quickly grant you, but it was my Dad's entire adult work life ...

    Sears kept my brother and me clothed (a lot of it, indeed, in Sears clothes; not all was good), fed, a roof over our heads ... back when companies were as loyal to its employees as they were to the company.

    We have one Kmart left in Savannah - Montgomery Cross Road and White Bluff Road. It got a bit low-rent for awhile, but has since bounced back somewhat. I try to patronize it when I can because I like having an alternative to Wal-Mart.

    If Kmart dies, that's only gonna mean Wal-Mart will get bigger, and more arrogant.

    And Sears. What would life be like without Craftsman tools and Kenmore appliances? Kill Sears, and you kill off the rest of Norman Rockwell's America.

    --TG

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  2. Don't get me wrong...I definitely do NOT want Sears to die. I think the merger actually increased my interest in Kmart especially because now I can actually find some decent merchandise there. I have full faith in Sears hardlines for sure and God help us if all we have is Best Buy and the Stupidcenter.

    The question is...any earthly hope that something actually BETTER will come out of the merger other than rebranding dumpy 70's Kmarts as Sears Essentials and Sears Grand? I'd like to see brand new shiny Stupidcenter sized stores with all that's good about both Kmart and Sears going and shaking up Wal-Mart a bit...is that too much to hope for? Is it too late? All I have to say is a start would be to either rebuild the mall stores as Sears Grand or relocate the Kmarts to Super Kmarts -> Sears Grand. ONE Super Kmart in Georgia is not encouraging.

    Also, BTW, did you notice that there are no Kmart credit cards anymore? Only Sears cards now at Kmart! Also notice that even in the regular Kmarts you can buy a Kenmore Washer and Dryer or get a Die Hard battery for your car.

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  3. Oh, no offense taken ... I know you speak purely from observation.

    I'm totally with you on the big question of why Kmart-Sears has friggin' dragged their feet on pushing the Sears Grand concept. If they don't do it, ain'nobody will! Wal-Mart is in bad need of a Sears 'n' Roebuck bitch-slapping two hours ago. What's more, Smiley Face needs a good caning with the business end of a Craftsman® brand weed-whacker.

    I find the Sears elements in Kmart (i.e. Sears credit card, Kenmore, DieHard) a good touch. It puts the Kenmore name at a more everyday setting.

    But yeah, SEARS GRAND needs to get hopping. The Kmart name, I'm afraid, should be retired ... rebadge all the existing Big K stores as Sears Grands. Sears is one of the most visible and most-recognized brands in retail history.

    And they're sitting on this gold mine. C'mon, Sears, quit farting around in your "Toughskins" and get moving!!

    -TG

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  4. There are still a number of Super kmarts in North Carolina along the I-40 corridor, but they're a bit worse for wear these days. Seeing that Rome store repainted gives me a little hope that they'll do the same in NC.

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  5. Re the Kmart gas station: I never thought I'd live to see the day when I'd think $2.07/9 was cheap gasoline.

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  6. From Macon GA:
    Hello
    I read about the only Kmart Supercenter in Georgia. I thought Kmart was going to give the concept a better shot than it did but apparently not. Even as I worked at Wal-Mart I hoped Kmart and Sears would keep the Smiley Face in line.

    We had a grocery store as part of the Riverside Drive Kmart location in Macon back in the 1970s but it became a Piggly Wiggly. The store moved to Tom Hill Sr Blvd in 1986.

    A Pio Nono Avenue location near US80 opened in 1963. In 1998 or so moved further down US80 only to close a few years later. The Warner Robins GA location has deep sales advertised by roadside placards. I won't bet on it staying open too long.

    I hope to see Kmart resurrect itself as a Sears Grand in order to compete with Wal-Mart. I don't want Wally World to become a monopoly. Hardly is Target a competitor.

    Finally, I love your blog. I always thought Atlanta was a neat place when I was a teen and even while I was in college. I used to listen to Atlanta radio stations when I could and heard the commercials mention the malls.

    I even went to a few of them when visiting my sister. I also remember the fancy ads in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. It is so odd to see some of them die out.

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  7. The Rome Super Kmart is one of Kmart's higher volume stores, though it no longer sells groceries at the pace it once did with a newer Kroger across Turner McCall and a Wal*Mart Supercenter east on US 411. Kmart has fared well in northwest Georgia with only LaFayette falling to the banckruptcy axe. Fort Oglethorpe continues to do well despite the Wal*Mart Supercenter and Cartersville is hanging in agains Target and W*M Supercenter. How the Calhoun Kmart survived is probably a factor of the low lease, as it is a low volume store. Two Kmarts survive in Dalton, though worse for the wear since the opening of a second W*M Supercenter. Sears has mall stores in Dalton and Rome, so there would be an issue of real estate disposal if the Kmart banner is dumped for Sears Grand(Sears Essentials has already been laid to rest). The Kmart turned Sears Essentials in East Ridge, TN , soon Sears Grand is not encouraging, merely a cheap Kmart remodel. The Sears Grand prototype is much more attractive than the East Ridge Sears Essentials. Also, Sears Holdings needs to step up Sears Grand promotions, they lack their own advertising-leaving the Rx, OTC, HBA, and Pantry departments out of the loop and these are the departments which generate the sales volume.

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  8. You may be interested that here in Johnson City, TN we have two Super Wal-Marts, a Target, AND a Super K-Mart.

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  9. I drove 100 miles to visit this Kmart today after reading your article.

    I posted a long narrative and pictures here-
    http://www.amesfanclub.com/forum/viewthread.php?tid=19&page=58#pid31827
    Also I posted about going to the Kmart that was converted to a Sears in Marietta.

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  10. New info on the Super Kmart in Rome. They have done away with the grocery section, now only keeping the former, I guess you would say, plain old Kmart. I had actually started shopping there lately, as I have come to hate Walmart for the way they have destroyed American retail and sent manufacturing jobs oversees, mainly China. I am really sad to see the change. Now it's off to Kroger.

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  11. As anonymous said, the Super Kmart is no longer a Super kmart. Article here- http://www.romenewswire.com/index.php/2009/04/08/breaking-news-rome-kmart-store-to-close-80-employees-to-lose-jobs/ . It's still open but is now just a regular kmart with no grocery section and no longer open 24 hrs. How depressing. I would like to visit this store now to take pics and document the sad change. Now there are no Super K's in GA.

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