160 Malabar Road SW, Palm Bay, FL - Palm Bay West Shopping Center
This Kmart opened in 1989 as part of the new Palm Bay West shopping center complex, in addition to fellow anchors Winn-Dixie, Walgreens, and a Cobb Cinema. Kmart closed this store in 2002 during their first wave of bankruptcy closures. In 2003, shortly after the Kmart closed for good, this space was subdivided into a Bealls Department store (which moved from here, on the other side of town) and Ace Hardware. Bealls closed this store in 2013 after their rent went up due to Winn-Dixie's remodel. In 2015, Roses Discount Store would take over this former Bealls space (which will be the subject of another blog post). The Ace Hardware store closed in 2016, and presently its space sits vacant.
Unlike the other Palm Bay Kmart, which many around here still remember, this Kmart store on Malabar Road has become largely forgotten. That may have to do with the fact that this store closed nearly 17 years ago now, in addition to how it's largely unrecognizable as a Kmart today. This Kmart was 10 years newer than its counterpart on the other side of town, built in one of the first major retail developments in Central Palm Bay to serve the large expanse of residential neighborhoods out this way. Also unlike the other Palm Bay Kmart, which had a 35 year run, this Kmart only lasted for 13 years. 13 years isn't too shabby of a run, but it's certainly nothing more than a small blip in the retail history of Palm Bay. When Bealls moved into their piece of this former Kmart in 2003, they completely changed the exterior to their standard prototype. Therefore, on their side of the building, nearly nothing remains from Kmart.
What you see here is essentially the standard Bealls Department Store prototype for the last 20 years or so. When Roses moved into this space in 2015, they did nothing to the place, making for a really classy looking Roses store!
Going off of some old satellite imagery, Kmart's original entryway would have been located approximately where Bealls' left side entry arch is now. The Bealls labelscar is also quite visible in these pictures.
Looking down from Bealls toward the Ace Hardware. While Bealls changed everything around to their taste, Ace...not so much. There were quite a few Kmart artifacts left down at this end of the building. That pattern on the wall is left over from Kmart, and even the interior of Ace still felt like Kmart!
Moving away from the old Bealls, here's an overview of the Ace Hardware side of the building.
The former Kmart Garden Center (which Ace does use) is absolutely 100% intact!!! Everything here is original to Kmart. The pattern on the walls, the doors, the chain link area where the plants used to be - everything is original! Seriously, all that's missing is a Kmart Garden Center sign.
The original doors leading into the interior portion of the former Kmart Garden Center. They weren't being used during my visit here (they were locked), although there is a register set up inside, which you can kind of see through the glass, so they must use this entrance on occasion.
One last look at the exterior of the Garden Center before we head inside...
Heading inside, you can still get a little bit of a Kmart feel from this place. The flooring and lighting may have been replaced during the 2003 remodel when this building was subdivided, but it was redone much in the vein of what Kmart would have had. In this particular photo we're looking down the main center aisle of the Ace Hardware store.
This is the view down one of the aisles, looking from the right side of the store to the left side where the Garden Center is. What you see here is how wide the portion of the space is that Ace took over, which I believe is about a quarter of the old Kmart.
Another view across the store, this time from the second to last aisle in the back. This was a rather large Ace store; large enough to have an entire Boy Scouts department anyway. I've never seen this department before in an Ace.
The back wall of Ace, home to their services desk where you can get keys made and items custom cut, amongst other things I really wasn't paying much attention to. This was also the original back wall for Kmart, some evidence of which we'll see in the next photo...
Original Kmart doors! Kmart used doors of this style in many of their 70's and 80's era stores, and Ace decided to leave them in place. My guess is that the Layaway counter was back behind those doors in this store's Kmart days, along with the restrooms. To see examples of the same doors in place at our old pal #7310 on the other side of town, click here and here.
Here's a look at Ace's main center aisle again, looking from the back of the store toward the front this time.
And now we venture into the completely intact former garden center. This is looking down the interior portion of the garden center from the back of the store. Ace doesn't keep much of anything garden related in this portion anymore, using most of this interior space for bags of concrete, fencing and pool supplies.
The front of the interior portion of the garden center, with the original exterior doors in the background.
The back corner of the interior portion of the garden center. That door (also original) is one of two that leads out to the exterior portion behind the fencing.
The exterior portion of Kmart's former Garden Center, now home to bricks, blocks, landscaping items, and bags of dirt. I don't know if Ace still keeps some plants out here in the summertime, but at the time I took these photos, there weren't any to be seen.
And one last interior photo of this Ace Hardware store, taken near the front. However, my photos from this Ace Hardware store don't end here. I came back here for more photos after this store began liquidating in August 2016, and I'm including them with this post:
Jumping ahead to August 2016, here are some addition photos of this store during it's liquidation. According to fellow My Florida Retail blogger Cape Kennedy Retail, this Ace Hardware closed because the owner of this store wanted to consolidate his two Ace Hardware stores into one location, choosing this location as the one to close. These Ace liquidation photos will also give us some additional photos of the better preserved portion of this former Kmart store.
I didn't even realize this Ace Hardware was closing until I decided to stop by the next-door Roses for a few things one day. I looked over at the Ace Hardware and saw this sedate closing banner hanging in front of the doors, which made me decide to swing by here for some additional photos too.
Back inside the main store we go for another look down the store's main aisle. I was here somewhat early in the closing process, so there was still quite a bit of merchandise left. However some parts of the store were fairly devoid of merchandise already.
One of the emptier aisles at the time. This aisle was toward the back of the store.
One of the aisles in the electrical department, most of which was cleared out to store excess shelf pegs (which were for sale for 50 cents each). As styertowne said, "I hate to see Ace's close! They are the best hardware stores..."
The former interior portion of Kmart's garden center again. Not much was left in this portion of the store at this point.
The front part of the former garden center, where we have a better view of the seldomly-used garden center door.
The very empty outdoor portion of Kmart's old garden center.
Stepping back inside the main store now, here's a look down the aisle that runs along the left side of the main sales floor.
Another fairly empty aisle in the bath department.
The lawn and garden chemicals aisle was already looking a bit picked through at this point.
This carpeted area near the front of the store was originally home to seasonal merchandise and a few small racks of shirts. For the closing, this space became home to fixture sales and some random large items that needed to be sold.
Another look at the former seasonal/current fixtures sales area, this time from the opposite direction.
Finding ourselves looking toward the exit, this seems like a good place to finish off this post. Even when an old Kmart building gets renovated beyond recognition, it still seems like those old garden centers always find a way to hang in there! However, we're not done with our coverage of this building yet, as a future post will cover the next-door Roses store in the old Bealls space, so be on the lookout for that soon!
Until the next post,