Sunday, December 9, 2018

Kmart #3985 - Lakeland, FL

Kmart #3985 / Sears Essentials #2586 / Kmart #3985
4717 S. Florida Avenue, Lakeland, FL

     Yes folks, the wrath of Eddie has struck again...

     This Kmart originally opened in 1993, more than likely as a replacement for nearby store #3242 (which was located at 947 Bartow Road, now home to a Chevrolet dealership). In 2005, this Kmart was converted into a Sears Essentials store, just to be converted back to a Kmart again in 2011. With the conversion back to Kmart, this store received a rather nice remodel and became one of the nicest Kmart stores in all of Florida. However, that meant nothing, and this Kmart was announced to be closing in July 2017, and will officially close in October 2017. In March 2018, it was announced that Publix would open one of their new GreenWise Market stores at the site of this old Kmart. In June 2018, demolition began on this Kmart building to clear way for the new GreenWise Market and accompanying strip plaza, which are set to open sometime in 2019. A pretty sad end to what was a very nice example of what Kmart could have been.

      As you may know, the city of Lakeland, Florida is famous for being the land of Publix (and, yes, lakes too). While I did get to see some really interesting Publix stores out here in their homeland (along with some other really cool places - Lakeland is filled with lots of great old retail), the main goal of this trip was to see the store pictured above - the new closed Lakeland Kmart. I've wanted to see this particular Kmart for ages after hearing about how nice it was after its 2011 remodel. That remodel on top of the fact that this was one of Kmart's nice 90's built stores made things even better. Unfortunately, it took the announcement of this store's closure to finally motivate me to take the drive out here to see this store. While it was still early in the closing, this store had already lost much of the niceness I was hoping to see. The place was trashed (as we will see later in this post), and to make things worse, this place was mobbed too. Not that a healthy crowd at the local Kmart is a bad thing, but this place was so packed that it felt like a Walmart Supercenter on a Saturday afternoon! (Wow, I never thought I'd say that about a Kmart). Essentially, it was so crowded it made it miserable to shop. Anyway, I did make the most of this visit and still managed to get a good number of pictures (as I'm not going to drive halfway across the state for anything less!). We'll also see clues from just how nice this store once was, as I document the unfortunate fate that fell upon this Kmart store.

     The current logo looks really good on the exterior of this style Kmart. For some reason it fits in perfectly with the rest of the building.

     The unfortunate store closing banner hung on the far right side of the building. In addition to this, there was a person holding a sign advertising the closure out on Florida Avenue at the store's main entrance.

     Looking from the front entrance down the left side of the building. Above the Pepsi machine you can see the labelscar from the "Pharmacy" sign. This store's pharmacy closed during the conversion of this store from Sears Essentials back to Kmart, so that labelscar has been there for 6 years now.

     A close-up of the classic mid-late 90's Kmart entrance.

     A different angle of the store’s front entryway, this time with a view of the “Store Closing” banner in the background.

     As you can probably tell, I found this store’s entryway to be very photogenic. I really like this particular Kmart design, especially with the current logo.

     A look across the store’s entry vestibule. This is a very typical 90’s Kmart vestibule, although I miss the days of when you would see advertisements for ICEEs and the KCafé hanging in here, and getting the smell of the KCafé when you first walk in. I for some reason associate all of that with these 90’s built Kmart stores.

     Our first photo as we enter the store looks into the corner between the customer service desk and the entryway. Here we see the empty former Kmart Photo Center, which would have occupied this space from when this store opened until the store converted into Sears Essentials in 2005. After the Sears Essentials conversion, this space would have been converted into a Portrait Studio. From the looks of it, this space didn’t serve much of a purpose when this store was converted back into a Kmart other than storage. You can also see one of the Kmart self-service key making kiosks in this photo.

     Here’s a look into the old photo center/portrait studio space. It looks like Kmart was using this space for customer merchandise pickups.

     In between the old Kmart photo center and KCafe is the customer service desk. The service desk didn't have any hanging signage, but I'm not sure if the signs were removed just prior to the closing or if there never was one.

     Here's a view of the old KCafe space, which has been empty ever since the original conversion of this store from Kmart to Sears Essentials. Ever since the Sears Essentials days, this space was used for random merchandise. For the closing, the old KCafe space was home to a bunch of "Deal Flash" merchandise.

     Looking into the old KCafe space. For those of you who haven't been to Kmart recently, "Deal Flash" is a semi-new concept that rolled out in in late 2016/early 2017-ish. The Deal Flash merchandise is mostly random closeout stuff Kmart manages to get a good deal on (using a similar technique to what Big Lots does to buy much of their merchandise), and they advertise it with brightly colored signs. From what I've heard elsewhere online for this closing round, certain liquidators were bringing in excess merchandise of their own that wasn't originally from Kmart (which sometimes happens), and used Kmart's "Deal Flash" signage for that merchandise. Most of the Deal Flash merchandise in the old KCafe looked like stuff from Sports Authority that the liquidator still hadn't gotten rid of. It was mostly athletic apparel (like Under Armor brand, which Kmart doesn't sell) and a lot of golfing equipment (which Kmart usually does not have a wide selection of).

     Looking into the space between the registers and the front entrance. Most of the people standing and sitting off to the left side of this photo were waiting for shopping carts. This place was so busy, all the carts got used up. Most of these people were just trying to grab carts off of people coming out from the registers, but it did get to the point where an employee took a cart they were working out of, threw everything in it on the floor, and gave the cart to someone who was waiting for one over here.

     Finally, we begin to make our way deeper into the store. As usual, there was no shortage of signs advertising the store closing deals. Now moving just beyond the old KCafe we find the children's clothing departments, which take up most of the space along the right side wall. Women's clothing is to my left.

     Looking back toward the front of the store and the old KCafe from the clothing departments. One thing there was no shortage of in this store was clothing. There were racks of clothes jammed everyone in here (including these racks clogging up the main aisle), most of which was probably brought in from elsewhere.

     Looking along the right side wall in the children's clothing department, toward the back of the store. As YonWooRetail2 said, "That dark blue carpet with the pattern really makes this Kmart look fancy! It's disgusting how a nice store like this is going to be abandoned."

     Like most closings (especially Kmart ones), there was no shortage of merchandise randomly ripped apart and strewn around all over the place. You can see a bit of that going on in this photo. As YonWooRetail2 commented when he saw this photo of the mess that customers had made, "When you work in retail directly or indirectly, you really get a glimpse at some of the shear laziness in society. On numerous occasions I would be straitening up a shelf and find that customers had taken sandwich meat or bologna, and rather than putting it back in the cooler where it belongs, they just chuck it on the shelf next to bread or Little Debbie's. It drives me nuts when I see the waste!" So true!

     More store closing mess. I don't understand why people think that just because a store is closing, they can be free to just rip merchandise out of the package and throw it all over the place like this. I know this still happens to an extent when stores are not closing, but sights like this really take a turn for the worse during a closing (and still irk me).

     Moving further down the right side of the store. Off to the right is the baby department and to the left is men's clothing. Toys are straight ahead of me at the end of this aisle.

     Behind the baby department was this door into the backroom. This store's receiving area should be through here, as the layout of the property forced receiving to be on the right side of the building rather than in the back.

     Looking down the main back aisle of the store from the far right side. Toys are to my right, followed by electronics. Men's clothing is off in the distance to the left.

     A look down one of the center aisles that cuts between the women's and men's clothing departments.

     Toys were located in the back right corner of the store. As usual, this part of the store (and much of the rest of it) looked like a total disaster. However, back here in toys, I did notice a single employee trying to straighten up all of the toys strewn about. I walked by her and she looked at me, so I commented to her, "It's sad to see this place look so trashed." Her reply to me was (and she did say this quite loudly, too): "They destroyed this place!". I know she was fighting a losing battle trying to keep the toys looking nice, but I admire the fact that she was still trying and hadn't given up like many other employees probably did when the closing began.

     Looking out from toys toward the men's clothing department. I think my goal with this photo was to capture a decent glimpse of the round red signage price scanner sign. It looks like there was somebody using the price scanner too, looking at this photo closer.

    Looking down the store's back aisle into the left side of the building. Men's clothing is to my left and on my right we are approaching electronics.

     Here we find ourselves still in the main back aisle, but this time looking in the reverse direction toward clothing and toys.

     Yes, the electronics sign gave up too it seems. The empty area you see in front of me was more than likely home to appliances prior to the closing, however I saw very few appliances during my visit here about three weeks into the closing. This empty space was now being used for bicycles, which there was no shortage of in this place. In fact, this was probably one of at least 4 different places where they shoved some bikes for the closing.

    This store still retained its electronics counter all the way until the end. This counter looks to have been installed new from the 2011 conversion back to Kmart.

     Considering how crazy busy this place was, I don't know how I was able to manage to pull off a people free shot of the main back aisle! Anyway, here's a clear view from electronics to the left side wall. Beyond electronics were the hardware and automotive departments, with shoes to the left. As Retail Retell noticed, "Those shoe racks on the right look like they may originally have been DVD shelves... in which case, they're the fanciest I've ever seen in a Kmart!" He was indeed right, noticing some Kmart ingenuity at its finest!

     Looking from electronics back toward toys and clothing. On the left you can see part of the electronics department was converted into a home for excess shoes, which we saw a small bit of in the last photo.

     Moving along from electronics toward appliances and floor care. Since this store was remodeled in 2011, appliances got a nicely decorated area set aside from the rest of the electronics department (unlike most stores that got appliances randomly shoved into a portion of electronics).

     Appliance department signage. And like most Kmart closings, some random Christmas trees were for sale back here in August, although I'm not sure if these were left over trees from 2016 or were supposed to be put out for 2017. My guess would be these were for 2017 and arrived just prior to the closing.

     This center corridor divides shoes from housewares. Housewares takes up much of the center portion of the left half of this store.

     Home improvement and furniture are the next departments we stumble across as we continue further into the back left corner of the store.

    Here we're looking down the back wall of the store from hardware toward automotive. The layaway counter was located through an opening off in the distance.

     Another look across the back wall, this time looking from hardware back toward electronics.

     Peeking out from one of the hardware aisles for a look toward the shoe department and one of the main center aisles.

     Of course that lady just had to pop out from somewhere as I was taking this picture! Anyway, this is looking into the back left corner toward automotive and sporting goods. This store never had an auto center, but if it did, its interior entrance would have been located straight ahead of me under that red bar on the wall. And yes, there were even more bicycles over here.

     Looking toward the layaway counter in the back left corner. In this photo we also get a glimpse of the other wall signage for the departments located back here.

     This short hallway led to the layaway counter and the stockroom doors. The layaway counter itself is to the right when you enter this hallway, and isn't visible in this photo.

    Shoppers, shoppers everywhere (and even more bicycles too)! This is looking down the main aisle that traverses the left side of the store. Sporting Goods (called "fitness" here) was to my right, with housewares to my left.

     The official "sporting goods" sign was located against the left side wall in the back of the department, accompanied with a few photos as well.

     Moving further down the left side aisle we approach luggage, and even more shoppers picking at the remains of this poor old Kmart. I know Kmart closings can get busy, but the crowd that was here this particular day was the largest crowd I've seen at a Kmart in years, including other recent closings I've gone to. The pictures really don't show just how crazy this place was.

      This is one of the aisles that cut through the center of the housewares department, eventually leading into clothing. While there was still a good amount of merchandise in this place when I came here, housewares was one of the more picked through departments. And for good measure, we also have a pillow on the floor in this aisle.

     Here's a reverse view from where we left off last time, looking through the majority of the housewares departments. The department signs in this aisle also recognize some of the housewares sub-categories, like small appliances, organization, and window treatments (which got mostly chopped off).

     A random view down one of the housewares aisles.

     Moving into the front left corner of the store we find the seasonal department, stocked full of patio furniture for the summer season. To fill up space, some of the boxed patio furniture overstock was being brought out onto the floor in addition to the displays.

     More bicycles! (I told you these things were stuffed all over the place!) The entrance into the garden center can be seen in the background as well.

     The seasonal department sign, which looks really big from this vantage point (although I'm sure it's a big sign to begin with).

     Moving along for a quick look inside of the Kmart garden center. Like most later 90’s stores, the garden center is accessed through a large cutaway in the wall, rather than through a lone set of doors in most older stores (or in some oddball Kmarts, a long, dark, narrow corridor!).

     Teleporting outside briefly for an exterior view of the garden center. Even prior to the closing, the garden center entrance had been closed off for some time, as evidenced by the pulled down hurricane shutters covering the doors. The exterior portion of the garden center was being used for storage of some random pallets and fixtures, although I can’t say for certain if this was still being used for plants until the closing began, or if the exterior portion was sitting unused for a while.

     The front part of the interior portion of the garden center was mostly home to more box stock of patio furniture. Behind me were still a few aisles of gardening items and accessories.

     Moving back into the main store for another look at the seasonal/patio furniture department. The luggage and sporting goods departments are visible in the background from this vantage point.

     With seasonal now behind us, here’s a look down the main front aisle. The housewares departments are to my left, with health and beauty along the front wall to my right.

     Looking down the front wall just beyond seasonal, we find greeting cards, party supplies, and office supplies. Health and beauty lies just beyond this.

     The health and beauty signage along the front wall, with the empty pharmacy box in the distance.

     The pharmacy at this store has been closed since 2011, when this store switched back to Kmart from Sears Essentials. I'm pretty sure the pharmacy remained operational through this store's entire time as Sears Essentials.

     A closeup of the center of the abandoned pharmacy box. I thought I saw traces of an old pharmacy sign up there during my visit, but it might have just been the glare playing tricks on me.

     Moving away from the pharmacy and health and beauty, we now find ourselves nearing the grocery department on the right, and jewelry on the left. Those are essentially the last two departments I have to cover as we begin to wrap up this tour.

     Another photo of the main front aisle as we near the pantry department.

     One of the aisles in the pantry department, with the department sign in the background.

     The pantry aisles extend back into this area, which is a cutout in the front wall of the store. This space is the area where the customer service counter would have moved to had this store converted into a Super Kmart (which this model was designed for easy expansion into). This space was probably used for a vision center during the Sears Essential days (as I’ve seen before), but prior to that it was probably just used for random merchandise (as is usually the case for this area in most 90’s Kmarts). Also, the typical Kmart coolers can be seen in this photo.

     Another pantry aisle view, this time looking back toward the main aisle.

     The front main aisle, looking back toward the garden center and health and beauty. Health and beauty was the only department to get the hanging aisles signs in this store, which can be seen in this photo.

     While I took this photo primarily for the big sign you see in the foreground, I still managed to capture a good bit of the relatively new jewelry counter in this photo. As for the sign, it was announcing many of the store closing specials going on at the jewelry counter and elsewhere in the store.

     Another main aisle view, this time looking from the jewelry counter back toward the garden center.

     This aisle runs alongside the jewelry counter through the center of the store, splitting clothing from housewares.

     No you are not seeing things here - all 6 of the registers were running with long lines at each! Those people you see crowding the aisle were all waiting in line to pay. Of course, it has to take a closing to get all of these people to venture into their local Kmart.

     Here we have a better look at the registers themselves. I meant to check to see if this store had the belt driven registers, but I forgot to since I didn't buy anything here due to the crazy crowd and trying to keep to my schedule (there was a lot to see this day!). Looking to the left of the s'mores display you can see part of one of the checkstands, and it looks like it could be belt driven. Belt driven registers were another sign that a Kmart was supposed to eventually be expanded into a Super Kmart.

     In front of the checkouts was some random seasonal merchandise, mostly pools and pool toys. Behind that you can see the alcove that part of the pantry department lies in, which I tried to describe a few photos back.

     We'll wrap up our interior tour of the Lakeland Kmart with this view looking toward the exit. Back outside we go now...

     As I was leaving, these storm clouds began to move in over the Kmart. I thought it made for a rather fitting and ominous scene from this closing store.

     And that folks was the Lakeland Kmart! It's a shame that another really nice Kmart had to suffer the wrath of Eddie, although I'm very happy I got to see this store before it closed for good. Our parting shot of this store will be yet another of the entryway, as like I said before, I think the current Kmart logo just looked great on this building!

So that's all I have for now. Until the next post,


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