4340 Okeechobee Boulevard, West Palm Beach, FL - Cross County Plaza
A tour of a really nice (but of course now closed) Kmart will the inaugural store post here on My Florida Retail! This Kmart pictured above was the West Palm Beach Kmart, which opened in 1998 as a replacement for Kmart store #3612, which was located at this same site in the old Cross County Mall. The Cross County Mall was a small mall originally anchored by Jefferson Ward and Britt's department store, the Jefferson Ward later being taken over by Kmart. The mall fell into a bit of a decline by the late 1990's, with the final nail in the coffin happening in 1997, when a large fire broke out in the mall's Builder's Square store. Instead of repairing the fire damage, the mall's owner opted instead to tear down the entire mall structure and build a large open air plaza in its place, including new homes for all of the mall's anchor stores at the time of the fire. This store was would end up being the third to last new Kmart to open in Florida, and was built using the somewhat rare late 90's/early 2000's store design. This store received a remodel in the mid-2000's to the red and orange decor, which really made this store look good. However, good looks weren't enough to save this store, as after years of declining sales and very high rent for the building, this Kmart would end up closing in August 2016.
It's sad seeing one of these newer Kmarts close. The exterior of this store could actually pass as something modern, and so could he interior had they kept it up better. Interestingly enough, I visited this store two days before it was announced this store would begin the closure process. I was completely unaware of the potential closure until I arrived here, with a few odd things I noticed suggesting a closure was imminent (more on that later). Since there were still two days before the closure began, for the most part, things looked fairly normal inside. Everything was well stocked and there were a decent number of shoppers inside for a weekday morning. However, as soon as I walked through the doors I knew something wasn't right here. Conforming my suspicions, two weeks after I visited here, an AFB follower e-mailed me saying this store's closing sale was already in full swing. As nice as this store was, the aesthetics weren't enough to keep it alive. The closing of this store left Palm Beach County with two Kmart stores located in Lantana and Boca Raton, both located in the southern part of the county. The Lantana and Boca Raton Kmart stores are also expected to survive SHC's current bankruptcy should the company emerge, as they are both classified as "restricted" stores (and really don't have much competition around them).
When it comes to most Kmart stores, you don't get much more modern than this. While the exterior was quite presentable (although a good power washing wouldn't have hurt), Kmart had let some aspects of upkeep slip inside the store, as we will see when we go through the interior photos. I have to say, the new logo looks really good up there.
I don't know what the future holds for this building. As of November 2018, the building still appears to be vacant. I think the only practical reuse of this building will be to divide it up into smaller storefronts. The intersection this store is located at (Military Trail and Okeechobee Boulevard) has one of the highest concentrations of retail in the immediate area, so finding a new occupant probably won't be too hard (or maybe it's harder than I thought it would be, considering this building has been sitting empty for two years now).
The main entrance into the store. I sure didn't know at the time what was about to hit me when I walked through those doors...
Upon entering the store, I happened to see two of these signs taped to the second set of doors as I walked in. These signs were announcing how new layaways would no longer be accepted at this store. “Hmm, that’s strange,” I thought to myself, “usually Kmart only shuts down layaway services when they’re about to close a store.” (Insert a brief pause here) “Uh oh…”. At this time, other than hearing some rumor about this store not doing so well in recent years, I had heard nothing definite about a potential closure until I saw this. I tried to get a picture of the sign on the front door, but it didn’t turn out so well, so I’m substituting this picture of the same sign from elsewhere in the store. Kmart had to have shut down layaway beginning the day I was here, as I saw some employees taking down layaway promotional signage hanging throughout the store during my visit.
A map of the store, which was updated during the remodel this store received in the mid-2000’s. Other than electronics being in the back of the store instead of the usual front corner opposite the entrance, the layout of this store otherwise resembled a typical early/mid-90’s Kmart layout.
This is the sight upon first entering the store and looking straight ahead. Children’s clothing was immediately to the right beyond the old café space, and women’s clothing was to the left. Other than the closing of layaway and one other red flag of upcoming closure we’ll see later in this post, this store was operating completely normal this day.
This is looking into the old KCafe space, which at the time was home to outdoor and pool merchandise. This looks to have been closed for a very long time, although the old café bathrooms were still in use.
Looking from the old KCafe area toward the checkouts.
The fitting rooms, located along the right side wall in the middle of the children's clothing department. I guess something happened to the "Women's" sign at some point, as the sign in use when I was here was made up of what looked like those wooden letters you could buy at a craft store, painted black. But as dahiliz67 commented, "I am happy that at least Kmart saw fit to replace them :)"
The counter in front of the fitting rooms. I took this picture primarily for the "No New layaways sign" on the counter, but it's still an interesting perspective.
Looking toward women's clothing and the left side of the store from the baby section.
The main right side aisle, looking toward the back of the store and men's clothing.
In the usual classy Kmart fashion, a kiddie pool was placed on the edge of the men's clothing department to catch water coming in from a leak in the ceiling. And this wasn't the only example of this in here - there were at least two or three more kiddie pools being used throughout the store to catch leaks! The most pathetic part is that this building is only 18 years old and already Kmart has let it slip to the point where there's a roof issue. Maybe it isn't entirely Kmart's fault, as I think most commercial flat roofs have a lifespan of 20-30 years, so I guess this roof's time could also have been nearing. A roof issue could be all the more reason to close this place, as a new roof is probably many thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of dollars that Kmart wouldn't want to spend on a failing store.
Just beyond the roof leak was the now shuttered layaway counter, located in the back right corner of the store.
The main back aisle of the store, looking from the edge of clothes into the hardlines departments (electronics/appliances, with sporting goods and hardware following them.)
Looking down a main center aisle toward shoes and the front of the store.
Taking a quick spin through the Electronics department. Like in most Kmarts recently, this store's electronics selection was shrunken down to a few TVs and some random accessories. Speaking of TVs, Kmart actually updated the surveillance monitor here to a flatscreen! You can see that toward the top of the photo, partially blocking the picture of the older style flatscreen used as decor, which as l_dawg2000 pointed out, is "kind of ironic how [the surveillance monitor is] newer than the outdated décor photo of a flatscreen as well!"
The remaining space after Electronis was shrunken down was used to house random furniture and appliances. While Kmart wanted to use this extra space to expand their furniture and appliance offerings to counteract falling electronics sales, I haven't found too many examples of a Kmart that effectively takes advantage of the newfound space. Usually this area feels too open with hardly anything in it, which is an issue I saw here.
Returning to the main back aisle, looking toward the left side of the store. The center of the main aisle was filled with pallets of furniture, and now that I think about it, that was probably a preparation for closure. I've never seen a Kmart with this much boxed furniture out on the floor when it wasn't closing, so they were probably beginning to clear out the backroom of these large items at the time.
An aisle that cut through the housewares department in the center of the store.
One of the aisles in the hardware department.
Looking down the back wall from hardware into the back left corner of the store, home to the automotive department.
Again looking along the back wall, this time from hardware back toward sporting goods.
The main aisle that runs along the left side of the store, looking toward toys and the edge of housewares and grocery. And yes, the random green plastic tub was there to catch water from another roof leak.
Looking back toward automotive from the entrance to the old auto center (more on that shortly). The space between automotive and toys was used as a home for the bicycles, and there were two large clearance tables behind me.
Looking down the left side wall into toys. You can see the clearance table and its accompanying (somewhat sad looking) balloons here as well. The entrance into the old auto center is located under that giant 'K' you see in the brown patch on the wall, however I didn't get any pictures of the entryway itself.
I didn't get any pictures of the entryway because I was too focused trying to hurry and get some pictures inside the old auto center itself! The interior portion of the auto center was left completely open and accessible to anyone who felt the need to walk in here, and there weren't any signs that said I couldn't go in! The design of this area made it somewhat difficult to get comprehensive photographs of the old auto center's interior, but the photos I got get the point across. This is looking to the left after stepping in through the interior entrance. I'm assuming this was the customer waiting room. The entire corridor back here was lined with windows, through which you could watch your car being fixed. This space has been sitting unused
since all of the Penske Auto Centers closed during the bankruptcy in 2002 the Sears Auto Center here closed sometime after 2012 (thanks RossyCo for pointing that out!). At this point, this was just space to store random junk, and the auto lifts and such look to have been removed.
Looking to the right after stepping into the auto center. The door you see in the foreground leads into the service bays, and the corridor leads to the customer entryway from the exterior of the auto center (an exterior photo of the auto center will be coming later in this post).
Looking down the main left side aisle, from the back of the store toward the front. The department sign that got chopped off in the top right was the sign for the toy department.
My attempt to capture the picture decor in the toy department, which ended up getting mostly glared out.
Moving further up from toys toward the seasonal department, looking in the direction of health & beauty along the front wall.
An overview of the seasonal department, nicely filled with patio furniture displays.
The pantry department is located just a little bit further into the store from the seasonal and garden departments. This is looking toward the wide open garden center. Since we're looking this way, let's venture toward the light to see the surprise that laid ahead in there!
As in most mid/late-90's Kmart stores, the interior portion of the Garden Center opens up into the rest of the store. This photo was taken from the back of the garden center, looking toward the front.
Christmas in May? As I began to go toward the back of the garden center, I began to think I was seeing things. I thought I was looking at a wall full of Christmas trees in May! I know retailers are beginning to push Christmas stuff earlier and earlier these days, but May? So not only was this store discontinuing layaway, but they decided to put all of their Christmas stuff out on the floor 7 months early. That could have only meant one thing...
Jingle all the May. Not only were there Christmas trees, but Kmart put out this entire wall of Christmas lights, decorations, lawn blow-ups, and wrapping paper. By this point, my thoughts had been confirmed - this store was up for closure, and soon.
Stepping away from the
Christmas department indoor portion of the garden center, here's a quick look at the outdoor portion. The West Palm Kmart kept this area up very well compared to some other Kmarts I've been to. It was clean, organized, had a large selection of plants, and best of all, the plants weren't dead! For a store about to be meeting its doom, this was a nice thing to see!
Looking back into the main part of the store from the garden center. With all of the light coming in from the garden center's windows, my phone decided to do something weird with the lighting in the rest of the store, making it seem darker than it actually was in here.
Back we go into the main store for a look up the main left side aisle, looking from food back toward toys and hardware.
The aisle that separated food from housewares. This area also became home to more pallets of boxed furniture in preparation for the soon-to-be-coming closing.
One of the food aisles. They did a very good job at keeping the aisles neat and straightened here.
Another aisle in the grocery department, this one home to the cleaners and air fresheners. As PlazaACME said, "This aisle looks too nice to be Kmart!"
Looking into Health & Beauty from grocery. The old pharmacy is just out of frame to the right.
Here's a look at the old pharmacy box, located along the front wall. The pharmacy at this store closed in 2009 according to the Florida Pharmacy Licence Database, probably due to declining sales here. Kmart tried to hide the remains of the pharmacy by putting shelves of product in front of it, but they really weren't fooling anyone with this.
So not only did the placement of the support poles make it difficult to navigate a cart through the front main aisle, but that kiddie pool being used to catch water from yet another leak completely blocks anything from getting though here!
Between the old pharmacy box and the front end was this little pocket. In here were the party supplies, cards, office supplies, and books and magazines, which you can see in the photo. The fancy bookshelves were added as a part of the 2007 remodel, but as Retail Retell commented, "...and they used Comic Sans on the fancy bookshelves. They had to mess it up somehow XD" As you know, it's just not Kmart if they don't mess up something that could have been nice!
Looking out from one of the aisles in the party supply department, looking into Women's clothing.
Near the registers was this new addition - a cart of cakes and muffins. I had never seen this at any other Kmart up to this point (although I have seen it at one other Kmart store and on flickr since then). I guess this is one of Kmart's lackluster attempts to bring more fresh food options into their stores (like how most non-Super Walmarts and Targets offer a small pre-made baked goods selection - and some produce, expanded groceries, and an entire frozen section to go with it). Too bad that K-Fresh idea seems to have fizzled out after 6 or so stores (most of which have since closed). That was probably one of Kmart's best ideas in years. It appears that K-Fresh appeared again at a few recently remodeled in stores around Chicago (Des Plaines and Norridge come to mind), but again the concept appears to have stagnated.
In this little alcove in front of the registers was the beer and wine department. Most Kmart stores around here merchandised beer and wine with the grocery department, but this store decided to separate it into its own space here. I believe this space was home to the customer service desk before it was moved to an island at the far end of the registers during the 2007 remodel. I think putting the beer and wine here was a very good use for this space, rather than stuffing random merchandise here.
Looking back toward beer and wine and the registers. In the background you can see the upgraded customer service desk installed during the 2007 remodel.
Kmart's Coolest Choices, aka the soda and ICEE machines at the front of the store. The installation of these drink machines was another feature common in these 2007 remodeled stores that didn't have an existing KCafe or Little Caesars, or had those featured removed. And what more do you need to take you back to 1998 than walking around Kmart while drinking an ICEE?
Looking toward the former KCafe space and the front entryway.
Thank you for shopping your West Palm Beach Kmart. It even looks like the "Pa" in Palm knew is was almost time to give up too. And with this, I will conclude our tour of the interior of this Kmart. A few more exterior photos will wrap up this post...
It really wasn't the fact that I found a payphone here that made me take this picture. What I found funny was the "Yes, This Payphone Works" sticker on the phone book cover. I guess you can't assume that any payphone you find these days will work. This was located in the front vestibule of the store.
Back outside now, looking toward the left side of the building and the Garden Center.
A closeup of the Garden Center entrance.
Heading around the left side, where we'll take a look at the back part of the outdoor portion of the Garden Center.
Also on the left side of the building, toward the back, is the former auto center. I had to wait to take this picture because an employee was doing something with a forklift out here when I first pulled up, and then he had to very slowly drive his forklift back in through that open garage door.
So there it is, Kmart #7786. Yet another halfway decent Kmart headed to the closure heap. I'm going to end this post with one final look at the very nice exterior, one of the nicest Kmart exteriors I've ever seen.
And that is what My Florida Retail will be all about, documenting the variety of stores you can find throughout Florida! Also, some exciting changes will be coming to My Florida Retail soon. I'm going to try experimenting with making this blog a collaborative one with a few other retail fans from Florida, which will hopefully provide everyone with a wide array of content to look through. Look out for those changes soon!
So until the next post,