Shoppers at the Crossings Mall Kmart, in Elkview, said Wednesday they are not looking forward to longer drives to shop for household supplies, pick up prescription drugs or grab ready-baked pizzas when the store closes in December.
The Elkview Kmart is scheduled to close for good after being shuttered for nearly 15 months following the June 2016 flood, which washed out the culvert bridge that provided access to the Crossings Mall. As plans to replace the culvert with a steel-beam bridge dragged on, store employees who weren’t reassigned to other Kanawha Valley Kmarts were let go in February 2017.
Two months after a replacement bridge to the mall opened, in July 2017, the Elkview Kmart reopened. Through 2018 and most of this year, it managed to dodge a series of store closings brought about during Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings by its parent, Sears Holdings Co.
But last week, Sears Holdings announced that the Elkview store was among more than 100 Sears and Kmart outlets that will be shuttered by the end of December. Following that closure, the Kmart in Kanawha City will become the last store in the retail chain left operating in West Virginia.
Closure of the Elkview Kmart “is going to be really hard on me and the other older people in the area,” said Delores Kirk of Bomont, Clay County, a once-a-week shopper at the Crossings Mall store for more than 20 years.
“I don’t like to do a lot of driving,” said Kirk, who travels about 20 miles each way to reach the Elkview Kmart.
“When this closes,” she said outside the store, where she had come to pick up detergent, clothing, dog food and other household items, “I will either have to drive to Charleston or Flatwoods to do my shopping. And the older I get, the less shopping I’ll do.”
“It will really be a hardship for some people,” said Junior Tully, of Frame. “It’s not just a store. Five or six of our neighbors get their prescriptions at the pharmacy here.”
“And we will miss having a Little Caesar’s here when the Kmart closes,” added Tully’s wife, Debby. A Little Caesar’s pizza outlet operates inside the Kmart.
The Tullys said the store never seemed to fully recover from having been closed more than a year after the 2016 flood.
“They took the hunting stuff out, which didn’t help,” Junior Tully said.
“It took so long to get the bridge fixed that people changed their shopping plans,” Debby Tully said. “And missing some back-to-school and Christmas shopping seasons didn’t help.”
The Tullys said the announcement of the Kmart store’s closing did not exactly come as a shock to them. While a new Taco Bell restaurant will soon take shape at the opposite end of the parking lot, where a Bob Evans once stood, “you can see a lot of empty stores here,” Debby Tully said. The Bob Evans restaurant never reopened after the flood.
Sears Holdings spokesman Larry Costello announced last week that the Elkview Kmart is expected to begin a liquidation sale by the middle of this month, with closure of the store expected to take place by mid-December.
“We encourage shoppers to continue shopping on Kmart.com for all their product needs,” he said.