1501 US Highway 1, Vero Beach, FL - Indian River Plaza
Nearly a year after its closure was announced, I'm finally getting around to posting the first of a few sets of photos I have documenting the closure of the Vero Beach Kmart store. While some current events I've been pretty good at staying on top of (like the closure of the West Melbourne Lucky's Market), some...not so much. Unfortunately, the closure of my last local-ish Kmart was coverage that got pushed to the back-burner, alongside the closure of the Vero Beach Sears store down the road at Indian River Mall. Slowly but surely I'll get through my five sets of photos I took as this store liquidated, today's post being one of those five. However, I'm not going to upload the remaining photos from here at any set schedule, just when I feel ready to pull another to write about, as I'd like to mix some other content in as well. Anyway, I'm sure you guys didn't come here to hear me ramble on about my never-ending backlog, so let's turn our attention back to the subject at hand: the Vero Beach Kmart.
Before we go any further, let me give you a brief recap of this store's history: The Vero Beach Kmart opened for business in 1979, locating in a new strip plaza just south of Vero Beach's downtown and Miracle Mile retail district. An expansion of the sales floor into the store's former auto center occurred sometime during the early 1990's, an expansion which included a new garden center constructed on the right side of the building. After getting the usual "Big Kmart" treatment in the late 90's, not much else would happen to this store until its closure. A "remodel" in Summer 2017 gave this store as much of a refresh as you could for a Kmart in the modern era (some rearranged aisles), as well as a newly stuccoed facade. While that seemed nice and all, it's Kmart, and no matter what the company does or how invincible a store looks, there's nothing from stopping Sears Holding's /Transformco's Wheel of Closures from landing on a particular location. While escaping numerous closure rounds and becoming the very last Kmart holdout in all of East Central Florida (including the greater Orlando area), the Wheel of Closures eventually landed on the Vero Beach store in a liquidation wave released in August 2019. While Kmart is a dying breed and all, and in an especially depressing state in its current form today, it was sad losing my last local Kmart. I was one who grew up with Kmart, and stepping inside one of their stores was a nostalgia trip for me, bringing me back to my childhood. While it's probably a bad sign when a store can bring back memories from 20 years ago so easily as you step through the doors (undoubtedly helped by the fact most Kmarts looked the same in 2019 as they did in 1999), I still have to respect the company for their impact on retailing through the years.
Even in Kmart's sad state as of mid-2020 (yes, they're still alive!), with only 30-something stores left in the chain (remember, the company boasted over 2,100 locations in the late 1990's), Florida manages to hold onto 4 of those few Kmart stores left in existence. A lone store in Miami, along with three high-performing locations in the Florida Keys are still barely clinging to life. For how much longer is anyone's guess, but Eddie Lampert somehow finds a way to keep his dying empire around year after year. For any Kmart store, it truly was a feat to make it into the late 2010's, so I have to appreciate the Vero Beach Kmart for lasting as long as it did. Before we get into the actual photosets documenting the closure process, today's post consists of a compilation of random photos I took at this store during normal operations. While we toured this store on my flickr photostream back in 2015 (with various small updates after that), we'll do one final once around the sales floor today before getting into the closure stuff. In we go, and who knows what we'll find...
During a visit to this store in January 2019, I walked in to find a row of folding tables spanning a middle aisle filled with random stuff. Upon closer inspection, I discovered I had walked into "Kmart's Old Fashioned Garage Sale". I'm not sure if the old fashioned garage sale was a chain-wide thing or something this store came up with on its own, but the goal appeared to be to clearance out a bunch of random junk that had been lying around for ages. Regardless though, this was...interesting.
Looking down the center aisle, here's a zoomed out look at the entirety of the "old fashioned garage sale". I have to give this place some credit though, they were being creative with this promotion, and all the balloons and signs made the displays stand out. While a lot of the stuff for sale at the old fashioned garage sale didn't seem too old, well...
...I also can't remember the last time I saw a store that sold fuses for household fuse boxes. While some older homes still have actual fuse boxes that take these, they're exceedingly rare to find these days, as I don't believe these things will pass a home inspection when someone goes to buy a house. However, if you were one of those holdouts that still has a fuse box and wandered into this store, well, you'd be in luck! Hey, you never know what you'll find at the old fashioned garage sale!
Here's one final look at the old fashioned garage sale, looking back toward the main entrance. Most of the stuff on the tables was marked down 80-90%, so they really wanted to get rid of these items.
Leaving behind the old fashioned garage sale, we'll turn our attention to the store's main front aisle, looking toward housewares and health and beauty.
Within the health and beauty department was the old pharmacy counter. This store's pharmacy closed sometime around 2017-ish if I remember right, and spent the remainder of its days blocked by shelving housing a variety of random merchandise.
Like most Kmart stores, here in Vero Beach we had the usual mish-mash of stuck in the 90's with some half-hearted modernization attempts from the early/mid-2010's, such as the updated grocery department signage visible here.
The selection of cereal was looking a bit light here, but otherwise there was still a decent amount of product on the shelf. As the 2010's came to a close, Kmart's house brand of food and household goods, Smart Sense, was gradually being phased out in favor of generic products distributed by SuperValu. I don't appear to have any photos of the SuperValu products in this post, but they were beginning to become more prevalent as this store entered its final months. From what I understand, because of the grocery distribution agreement with SuperValu, the food department is one of Kmart's best stocked departments at the handful of remaining stores. The rest of the store is an absolute supply chain mess from what I've heard. For a glimpse at what the Kmart of the 2020's is like, this video will give you a nice overview of what Kmart is like these days. Warning: it's very depressing.
Speaking of depressing, this photo looking into the seasonal department of the Vero Beach Kmart isn't much better, with all those plastic patio chairs spaced out to make the department look full! However, this department was in transition at the time, as the stuff from Christmas 2018 was being phased out for Summer 2019 merchandise (and to clarify for those of you non-Floridians reading this, as soon as the Christmas clearance clears out in early January, stores here immediately put out summer stuff and patio furniture, rather than waiting until March/April to put all that out like what happens up north).
With plastic patio chairs taking up the majority of the seasonal department, the remaining Christmas stuff had been condensed into a few aisles in the corner of the department.
More chairs...although I do have to say the neat arrangement of all these chairs comes off as very artistic.
plastic chair seasonal department, the remainder of the right side of the store was home to toys, followed by hardware, automotive, and sporting goods. The space we're standing in now was originally home to the store's auto center, which Kmart closed and expanded the sales floor into in the 1990's. From the inside, it's hard to tell the rightmost side of the sales floor is actually an expansion.
While I never visited the Vero Beach Kmart until I was much older, I have many fond memories from the Kmart toy department. Walking around this part of the store really brings me back in time, even though this wasn't my childhood store.
As part of the store's 2017 rearrangement, the furniture department was expanded to take up a good chunk of the back right corner of the store.
Leaving furniture, here's a look across the main back aisle. The back of the food department is located to my left, with electro-pli-mattresses straight ahead.
Moving a few steps further ahead, here's a better look at all of the signage for the electro-pli-mattress department.
The layaway counter was located behind the electronics department, down the little corridor that led to the restrooms and the stockroom. In this photo we can also see the Big Kmart era wall signage for these departments too.
Even until the very end, the Vero Beach Kmart still had a register in the electronics department - a working one too. Even though this register was still active, very rarely did I ever see it used.
As we continue our journey toward the left side of the store, here's a look down the aisle that divides the hardlines side of the store from the softlines side.
There must have been a promotion of some kind on shoes the day I took these pictures, as some extra racks of them were wheeled into the main aisle.
Men's clothing is located to my left in this image, with shoes to my right. Here we're looking across the store again, back toward hardlines.
Here's an overview of the left side of the store. Girl's clothing is located in this area, with baby clothing and accessories located in the back left corner.
Nearing the front of the store once again, the old KCafe comes into view...
The old KCafe at this store was turned into an extension of the women's clothing department, specifically the juniors section, though still very obvious as to what once occupied this corner. The KCafe at this store has been closed for years, closing long before I began shopping here in the mid-2010's.
Completing our loop of the store, here's a look across the front end.
Thank u for shoppin' #4. Yeah, getting a good picture of the thank you sign at this store was always something that eluded me, however, in one of my upcoming photosets, I did eventually get a good shot of this sign. The thank you sign at this store was of the pre-Big Kmart variety, so I had to make sure I got at least one good photo of it before this place closed for good.
This last exterior photo will conclude our quick recap of the Vero Beach Kmart. From this point on, my posts from here will focus on this store's liquidation in Fall 2019. As usual, there will be many of the sad scenes you've come to expect from a Kmart liquidation - gaudy yellow closing signs, emptiness, and maybe some strewn about merchandise here and there, with a surprise or two thrown in for good measure. Like I said at the beginning of this post, I don't have a timetable for when those photos will go up, as there's lots of other stores in my never-ending backlog I'd like to post about too. So eventually we'll see more from the Vero Beach Kmart, but for now, I need to think about what I want to blog about next!
So until I make that decision, that's all I have for now. Until the next post,