By Tony Wittkowski | City Reporter | The Times Herald
PORT HURON TWP. — While Port Huron Township residents continue to shop for the holidays, there is one store that will not be available toward the end of December.
The official last day for the Super Kmart in Port Huron Township will be Sunday.
While the reason for the store’s closure was not made available, Kmart spokesman Howard Riefs said in an email the recent store closures are part of a series of actions used to “reduce ongoing expenses.”
Riefs said there are 188 employees at Kmart’s 1179 32nd St. location who will have the chance to apply at their other stores. Four other Kmart locations in Michigan also are closing.
Port Huron resident Rhonda Crosby has been coming to Kmart four to five times a month for years and was surprised to hear they would be closing their doors this December.
“I was kind of shocked because this is the only store that we have on the south end besides Sam’s Club,” Crosby said. “Furthermore, people have to travel to the north end now to shop at Walmart or Target.”
Brown City resident Nancy Withey has been going to Kmart for the past 15 years and has been trying to visit more since she discovered a month ago that it would close.
Having shopped there for so long, Withey said she is worried about finding another store because the north end of town has the sort of traffic that can be considered a “headache.”
“We have 11 kids and we shop a lot,” Withey said. “This end of town is quiet and it is just convenient to come here. I don’t know where I’ll shop next.”
One of the main questions the closure raises is what will happen to the building after it is vacated.
Paul Maxwell, director for the Port Huron Township Downtown Development Authority, said he has been in touch with Kmart officials and was told about the closure early enough to begin looking for other businesses to occupy the space.
At 192,000 square feet, Maxwell said the outlook for the building is good because he frequently gets inquiries about available retail space in the area. He said a company moving into the vacant store would have to spend a minimal amount of time setting up.
“I’m cautiously optimistic we can make something happen there,” he said. “It’s in good shape and has been recently refurbished inside and out. I am working with the DDA to try to make sure people are aware that we have inventory available.”
He said the out-of-state owners who purchased the building last year have been in touch with Maxwell and the DDA in regard to filling the space.
According to Kmart officials, the building was sold to a private investor in 2013 for $9.1 million, while Kmart’s lease on the building had seven years left on the contract at the time.
Dan Casey, Economic Development Alliance of St. Clair County chief executive officer, said there are a handful of uses for the space because of its size.
Like Maxwell, Casey has talked to numerous big box users for different locations in the past. However, Casey said the Kmart building was not on the table at the time, so the EDA will be entering into talks with other businesses to see if they have plans for the Port Huron market.
Businesses that Casey thinks would pair well with Kmart’s location included Costco and any sporting goods stores.
“We’re more focused on what comes next,” Casey said. “Because of the size of the facility it can be broken up for retailers. We are going to focus on three big box users.”
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Dec. 1, 2014)