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Kmart closing store at mall

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Kmart in the FairOaks Mall will close in late April, the second such store announcement from parent company Sears Holding Corp. in two weeks.

The company announced Jan. 10 that its downtown Sears retail store, a fixture in Columbus for eight decades, would close as early as mid-March.

Although the developments came in quick succession, the closing of Kmart is not related to the Sears shutdown, said Howard Riefs, Sears director of corporate communications.

The 40 local Kmart employees who are eligible will receive severance and may apply for open positions at area Sears or Kmart stores, Riefs said. Most of the associates are part-time, hourly workers, he said.

The closest Kmart locations are in Greenwood, Bloomington and on the south side of Indianapolis.

Sears operates Hometown Stores in North Vernon, Franklin, Shelbyville and Greensburg. It has department stores in Greenwood and Bloomington.

Mark Pratt, a real estate broker with Breeden Commercial, said he has mixed reactions to the Columbus Kmart closure.

“My impression is that losing an anchor store could be crushing, but FairOaks as a center probably has already felt the impact,” he said.

Just like with Sears downtown, when space becomes vacant, it creates opportunity, Pratt said.

Kmart and Sears have been closing hundreds of stores nationally, and the death knell sounding for the two Columbus properties should come as no surprise, Pratt said.

“You just wonder how strong the other (FairOaks) anchors (J.C. Penney and Carson’s) are and how long they will last,” Pratt said.

He described the failures of Sears and Kmart as the end of a retail era.

“I remember when they were mainstays,” he said. “Kmart was a big deal.”

Kmart opened in 1989 at FairOaks as one of the original retail anchors with a footprint covering 86,500 square feet. Today, the average Kmart store is 94,000 square feet, Riefs said.

He declined to release details about Kmart’s lease agreement with the mall, which recently was sold under the threat of foreclosure.

The FairOaks Mall has not been officially notified of Kmart’s departure, said Kim Eckrote-Showalter, the mall’s general manager.

She declined to answer further questions.

Kmart will remain open and begin a liquidation sale Feb. 9, the company said in a written statement.

The action is being taken to reduce ongoing expenses, adjust the company’s asset base and “accelerate the transformation of our business model,” Riefs said.

Lenders recently sold FairOaks Mall, at 2380 25th St., to an investment group led by New York City real estate developer Gabriel Jeidel, who owns other malls and office buildings around the United States.

Previous owner Fair Oaks Mall Acquisition LLC, based in Howell, N.J., fell behind on mortgage payments in recent years, which led to a foreclosure lawsuit seeking to settle an unpaid $21.2 million mortgage debt.

A recent check of leasing activity at the mall showed 20 vacant storefront and restaurant pads out of 55 total spaces at the mall that could be leased.

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