Goodbye Kmart

It was announced on Friday that the last two Kmart stores in the Grand Rapids area will soon be closing.

The stores are now owned by Sears Holding Corp. The company said the stores were closing due to poor sales.

The Kmart stores located on 68th Street in Byron Township and the one on Plainfield Avenue in Grand Rapids are expected to close in mid-December. The stores are expected to remain open for customers until then. The store liquidation sales will begin on Thursday, September 22, 2016.

If you still want to shop at a Kmart, the store’s website shows 38 stores currently in the state of Michigan. The other closest stores to the Grand Rapids area would be in Muskegon, Hastings, or Greenville.

At one time, we had a Kmart in just about every corner of the city. There was the one on Alpine, just north of I-96. We had another one on 28th St. and Buchanan Avenue on the southwest side. There was another store on 28th street just east of what was then Eastbrook Mall (now Shops at Centerpoint). And there was another Kmart in Jenison (if I remember correctly that building then became a Target and is now the At Home store).

As a child I remember going to the Alpine store on the city’s northwest side. I can still remember much of the layout of the store. At one time there was an Eberhard’s grocery store on the south end of of the building. That later became Showbiz Pizza and then Chucky Cheese (which is now across the street from the original location).

There was something about walking into the store and walking by the display case with the sub sandwiches. I don’t know what Kmart did differently, but I loved those things. It’s too bad Subway or another sub shop couldn’t some how replicate those sandwiches. I’d buy them for sure.

And we can’t forget the “Blue Light Specials”! Walking around the store, waiting for the announcement to come over the PA as to just what the next item on special would be. To locate the sale item, just look up and find the flashing “blue light”. People would rush from all corners of the store to save a few cents on whatever was the featured item for that moment.

If you shopped and worked up an appetite, you could always grab a full meal at the Kmart cafeteria, located conveniently in the store. I was always surprised how many people would be in there eating. Maybe I’m just not a good enough shopper, because I never worked up that much of an appetite that I had to find a place to eat immediately before I even left the store!

And if you needed tires or service for your automobile, there was usually a car care center located in the parking lot in front of the store.

I miss those stores, although I haven’t been in a Kmart in probably 10 years. The one thing that always stood out about the Alpine store (I’m not sure if they were all this way)… If you needed to use the restroom, you had to go up to a window and tell someone, so they could push a buzzer to unlock the door for you. Nothing like announcing to everyone nearby that you were using the bathroom!

RIP Kmart. You served us well over the years. I wonder if I can find one of those square wooden carts with the pole and the “blue light” on top that they pushed around in the stores? I’ll have to keep my eye out for one on ebay?

Here is a video on the history of Kmart. It includes some photos of the old stores and even a few TV commercials…

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  1. Roger Munyon
    September 17, 2016 - 1:52 pm

    I certainly remember the K-Mart sub sandwiches. Wasn’t long ago a friend asked me if they still made them, as he had a craving for one as well. They were kinda on the cheesy, sloppy side as far as being slapped together goes, but they had a unique charm. We’ve recently been visiting the one on 68th street just to avoid crowds. Kinda indicates the Catch-22 right there, doesn’t it? They’ll be missed.

  2. Michelle
    September 17, 2016 - 2:21 pm

    Hi Scott,
    You are correct that there was a Kmart in Jenison. However, Target built its own building in almost the same parking lot, which was pretty rude.. 🙂 When Kmart went under, it was vacant for a while. Big Lots and ABC Warehouse have been in there. I know they split up the whole thing, and now that whole mini mall is gone.

  3. September 18, 2016 - 10:10 am

    Remembering the sub sandwiches at the Alpine K Mart. My daughter worked in the sandwich area for many years making those subs and slicing the meat in a small little area. Then she went to night person getting sales ready for the next day and worked there over 10 years! I really don’t want it to close as there store is neat, clean, not all jammed pack together and good clothes and prices-even have layaway! I just don’t like going into the store down the road on Plainfield and I may have to make a trip to Muskegon just so I can shop at the store I enjoy going to. What sad news.

  4. Tony Tymes
    May 8, 2019 - 11:53 pm

    When did the kmart on alpine close? I also remember the one at 28th and burlingame. Never went too those two, but I remember someone was selling furniture out of the auto center, back in the late 90’s. Before it got too far gone and was torn down. There also was a eberhard is lowell! Its now a strip mall with a ymca, pizza place and a few others.

  5. JB Allen
    December 15, 2020 - 9:16 pm

    Hello. I worked for Kmart for many years in the construction department. Before that, I had done some time working the retail side.

    I helped remodel the Grand Haven store in 1987 and was fortunate to work with some of the hardest working and fun people in the corporation, all from western Michigan.

    Somewhere, I have an instructional video of how to make subs and supersubs (I closed many SS Kresge stores and these videos went into dumpsters by the thousands).

    To make a supersub, you need the right kind of bun. It was a slightly sweet white bun made to Kmart’s specifications.
    The meats were honey ham, salami, and bologna. The honey ham was the chopped-and-formed type. One layer of each type of meat.
    Add to that, one slice of american cheese, broken into two half pieces and laid end-to-end. It is important to note that the american cheese be kept separate from the mustard/mayo mix or the cheese will liquefy. The ratio of mustard to mayo escapes me, but it was pre-mixed.
    Very thinly sliced white onion and tomato, lettuce and mild yellow pepper rings make up the rest.
    Having worked in many stores, food DMs (district managers) occasionally altered the recipe.


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