The pending closure of a Kmart store in Avenel, New Jersey — set for Saturday — will reduce the number of Kmarts in the U.S. to just three, according to multiple reports.
Many of the former Kmart sites in the North, West and Northwest suburbs have been redeveloped — but others await new uses.
In its heyday, Kmart had more than 2,300 stores across the country. It was mentioned in movies including “Rain Man” and “Beetlejuice” and in songs by Eminem, the Beastie Boys and Hall and Oates.
“Kmart was part of America,” said Michael Lisicky, a Baltimore-based author who has written several books on U.S. retail history. “You had toys. You had sporting goods. You had candy. You had stationery. It was something for everybody.”
Around the suburbs, the Kmart at Stratford Crossing in Bloomingdale that closed in 2016 is now a T.J. Maxx & HomeGoods store.
In Naperville, Costco now sits on Ogden Avenue where a Big Kmart closed in 2013.
Palatine’s Kmart, at Hicks and Baldwin roads, became a Sears Essentials store but then was condemned by the village and torn down. It’s now the site of the village’s police station and a Mariano’s store, both of which opened in 2012.
In Lombard, the store on the southeast corner of Roosevelt and Finley roads closed in 2013. The building was demolished in 2017 to make way for a Mariano’s.
The Kmart on Algonquin Road near Golf Road in Arlington Heights closed in 2002 and was redeveloped as a Lowe’s home improvement store that opened in 2006.
Mundelein had Kmart stores at the northeast and northwest corners of routes 45 and 60, although never simultaneously. Both later were occupied by other retailers; the site on the east site of Route 45 is vacant again, LA Fitness has a contract to lease the space and convert it into a gym, Village Administrator Eric Guenther said.
Other former Kmart sites stand unused.
The Kmart at 1155 E. Oakton St. in Des Plaines was the last operating in Illinois; it closed in 2020. Aside from twice being used as a COVID-19 vaccination site, it’s been vacant.
Wheeling’s former store, at the northeast corner of Dundee and Elmhurst roads, closed in 2002 and the building was razed in 2009. Although developers have shown interest, the site remains unused.
“We haven’t been able to put together (a deal),” Village President Pat Horcher said.
Horcher said he’d “be thrilled” to see activity return to the site, which is near several commercial and residential developments, including the Wheeling Town Center complex.
“It is the center of our town,” he said.
Land on Rand Road in Lake Zurich where a Kmart once stood has been vacant since the building was torn down in 2018.
Kmart’s decline was brought about by changes in shopping habits and the successes of Walmart, Target and Amazon. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in early 2002.
Hedge fund executive Edward Lampert combined Sears and Kmart and pledged to return them to their former greatness, but it wasn’t to be. Sears filed for Chapter 11 in 2018 and is disappearing, too.
The last three Kmart stores operating in the U.S. are in New Jersey, New York and Miami.
• Daily Herald staff writer Charles Keeshan and wire services contributed to this report.