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Shoppers lament loss of Kmart as its last Treasure Valley store prepares to close

The Nampa Kmart store, which will close in early August, has served generations of Treasure Valley shoppers. It's the last Kmart store of five that once operated in Boise, Nampa, Mountain Home and Ontario.
The Nampa Kmart store, which will close in early August, has served generations of Treasure Valley shoppers. It's the last Kmart store of five that once operated in Boise, Nampa, Mountain Home and Ontario. dstaats@idahostatesman.com

When Lois Russell was a youngster growing up in Emmett in the 1960s and '70s, her mother tookher and her siblings shopping for school clothes at the Nampa Kmart store.

"Back then it was all about quantity," Russell said. "We all got three pairs of pants and five shirts and a pack of underwear and a pair of tennis shoes. It was an exciting time."

As a kid, Nampa resident Tam Sanchez said Kmart was the "nice" store in town, where her family bought Velcro Trax shoes, Wrangler jeans and Jaclyn Smith clothes, "if we were feeling really classy."

Still, she found herself branded through her family's choice of clothes.

"If kids found out where you bought your clothes, they'd call you 'Kmart fall-apart,'" she said.

Come August, Treasure Valley residents will no longer be able to shop at the retailer known for its economy clothing, blue-light specials and frozen Icee drinks. The Nampa store at 1813 Caldwell Boulevard, the last of five Kmarts that once operated between Mountain Home and Ontario will close after agoing-out-of-business sale that began May 17.

A company spokesman, who declined to be identified, would not disclose the number of workers employed at the Nampa store. He said eligible employees would receive a severance and have the opportunity to apply for openings at other Kmart and Sears stores. Sears Holdings Corp. owns both chains.

"This is not an effort solely aimed at cost savings but is part of a strategy we’ have been executing against as many of our larger stores are too big for our needs," the spokesman said in an email. "Having fewer stores – and the right format – will help us bring Sears Holdings to a size and place to meet the realities of the changing retail world."

The store manager said she could not comment.

Kmart has its roots in a five-and-dime store S.S. Kresge founded in 1897 in Memphis, Tennessee.In 1966, it opened a storeon Americana Boulevard, just north of the Boise River. The company replaced that store with a new one twice as largeon ParkCenter Boulevard in 1992. At the time, Kmart was the second-largest retailer in the United States, trailing only Walmart.

The chain soon saw its fortunes turn south. Kmart filed for bankruptcy in 2002 and closed the ParkCenter store a year later.

It hoped to revive its lagging business by buying another struggling retailer, Sears, for $11.5 billion in 2005. The move didn't help. Both chains by then were viewed as relics that had done too little to appeal to modern shoppers. For more than a decade, the combined company has closed stores and shed employees.

Kmart closed its Mountain Home store in 2002 and the Ontario store in 2015. Eight months later, the remaining Boise store, at Fairview Avenue and Five Mile Road, closed too.

On Thursday, Sears announced that it would close 63 stores more, including 15 Kmarts and 48 Sears, in early September. The only Sears store in the Treasure Valley, at the Boise Towne Square mall, was spared. An additional 27 unprofitable stores could face closure in the future, the company said, but it did not identify them.

When the Nampa store closes, the only Kmarts left in Idaho will be in Twin Falls and Lewiston.

Camile Mick, who once worked at Albertsons' headquarters on ParkCenter, said she enjoyed shopping at the ParkCenter store up the street.

"I would spend many of my lunch hours finding all sorts of bargains," Mick said. "I loved that store and was sad when it closed."

Boise resident Tori Sullivan misses Kmart's in-store delis, removed years ago.

"They served the most amazing ham sandwiches," Sullivan said.

Nampa resident Sylvia Rivas said she liked Kmart because you could place items on layaway, paying over time and then claiming the items.

Jinny Strain-Smith got her start working in retail with Kmart 35 years ago after she moved from Idaho to Las Vegas. She later transferred to the Fairview and Five Mile store from Nevada.

"I got chills when I saw the 'store closing' sign on the Nampa store," Strain-Smith said. "It's been sad to watch it become a shell of what it was. I never thought there would not be a Kmart."

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