Monday, July 1, 2013

Super Kmart Center in Cambridge, Ohio

Nicholas Eckhart
nicholas@deadanddyingretail.com


     This time I visited a Super Kmart Center store in Cambridge, Ohio. Let me start off by mentioning that this location is a one of a kind Kmart store; it is the only store of this design to be expanded into a supercenter. I use the word "expanded" for a reason; a few other stores of this design were converted to Super Kmart in 2001, but they were not expanded. Those stores except one in Caguas, Puerto Rico have been closed. Perhaps slamming grocery areas into stores smaller than 100,000 square feet was a bad move on Kmart's part. Currently, the only two Super Kmart stores remaining that are in expanded 1990s stores (the one featured in this post and one in Ashtabula, Ohio that was built with an earlier design in 1991) are both around 150,000 square feet, which is a much more appropriate size for a Super Kmart.

     In the early 2000s Kmart had plans to convert or expand over a thousand Big Kmart stores into the Super Kmart concept as well as build numerous ground-up Super Kmart stores to replace older smaller Kmart stores. After Kmart's bankruptcy in 2002 all stores undergoing an expansion or remodel into a Super Kmart stopped the process and remained operating as Kmart; the best examples of this are stores in Albuquerque, New Mexico and Passaic, New Jersey. No more conversions or expansions would occur after the bankruptcy either. Also, all ground-up Super Center construction projects were cancelled directly after the bankruptcy no matter how close to completion the stores were, but some standard Kmart construction projects continued and were finished such as Bishop, California and Somers Point, New Jersey. The 2002 Super Kmart construction projects with structures still largely intact are in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Mesa, Arizona

     One other strike happened to Super Kmart in 2002 when 12 Super Kmart closures were the result of Kmart's bankruptcy. The biggest strike ever to the Super Kmart concept was when 58 Super Kmart stores closed in 2003. Since then 26 stores got rid of their groceries and a number of them closed. As of July 2013 only 23 Super Kmart stores will remain operating.

     The first Kmart in Cambridge, Ohio opened in the very early 1960s as store number 3555 around a mile north of the current Cambridge Kmart site. By the 1990s that store was considered very small and outdated compared with other Kmart stores in Ohio. Ohio was also more or less considered the home base for the Super Kmart concept stores. As a replacement for the old Cambridge store, plans for a Super Kmart Center were drawn and meant to be built on Southgate Parkway just south of interstate 70. However, in the early 1990s Kmart was getting mixed results with their supercenter stores so they began to second guess the concept. As a result Kmart Corp. downsized the plans for this particular store to be built as a larger sized Kmart store. It is unclear how many Super Kmart plans were downsized into regular Kmart stores, but I do know of a few others myself.

     The new Kmart store in Cambridge opened in 1995 at the same site meant to house the supercenter. At over 100,000 square feet this store was one of the largest Kmart stores at the time it was built. The store was built in a way to make a future conversion to a Super Kmart seamless and possibly most likely included a pantry before the Big Kmart era. An area, in a similar fashion as many other stores of this design, was set aside next to the store's entrance; the space would later be utilized in the store's Super Kmart expansion. The original layout included a Kmart Cafe with an attached customer service desk to the right of the entrance plus Layaway, Fitting Rooms and an Olan Mills portrait studio along the side wall.

     In 2001 the Cambridge Kmart was expanded into Super Kmart and also added a prototype Kmart Express gas station and convenience store with an attached Penske Express auto center (the auto center would close about a year later as a result of Penske's bankruptcy). During the conversion the cafe and restrooms in the front were ripped out, along with the fitting rooms, Olan Mills, and layaway. The customer service section along with Olan Mills, the store's offices, and restrooms were moved up front plus Layaway moved to the back of the store when the back was slightly expanded as well. Since then the Olan Mills Portrait studio in this store closed. This store is 148,527 square feet now that it has been expanded.

     I was overly impressed with the design of the Cambridge store on my visit. It is very hard to tell the store was built as a Kmart on the inside except for only one main entrance being present into the store. The conversion of this store seems very well thought out and not haphazard like the conversion of the Ashtabula store is. The staff seemed friendly at this location and it was very clean, well lit, well maintained, and more updated than many Kmart or Super Kmart stores I have been. The Cambridge store does not have a Little Caesar's pizza like many other ones, but the Little Caesar's existing restaurant in the shopping center has to be the reason why. I notice that many photographers have taken one or two pictures of the exterior of this store while passing through; I believe I am the first photographer to venture inside this store and take pictures of it. Enjoy the pictures of this one of a kind store!

Here are some exterior photos of the store

The 24 Hours part of the sign is whited out from the store's brief time as being open from 6 am to 12 am. Now the store is open 24 hours again.

The garden center entrance

The refrigeration units are visible on top of the store.
The section of the store with the lights is the part added in 2001. The expansion does not connect to the rest of the shopping center.
Below are pictures of the Kmart Express / Penske Express building


The doors are for the Penske Express location


The Kmart logo fell off this sign and exposed some white neon underneath.
This was the lobby for the Penske Express, it is now part of the convenience store.



Now on to the interior of the store...


Produce is up front, the fake wood tiles mark where the Cafe was originally.
Customer service and restrooms would have been in this area originally.
The main entrance / exit to the store.
Customer Service was moved here after the conversion. The other door is where the Olan Mills Portrait Studio used to be.


Deli and Bakery
A reintroduction of floral items at this location.
The produce section
Looking from the front of the store towards the back the square poles mark the general area of the original side wall.
A frozen foods aisle.
Super Kmart logo spotted despite the fact this store has the Super Kmart Center signage.




Seafood and Fresh Meat




Fresh Meat. The squares in the ceiling function as part of the refrigeration system.












The back wall of the sales floor remains unmodified from when the store opened.






This Layaway section was added to the back of the store. There are no restrooms back here like in most Kmart or Super Kmart stores.












The red triangle marks the location of a fire extinguisher and is a remnant of the original wall decor of this location.




Checkouts
Island style fitting rooms that were added when the store was converted.

Here is the store that was replaced by the current Cambridge store in 1995.


A very old Kmart facade remains on this store!



The former Garden Center

A possible  former Kmart Foods store

Thank You for visiting Dead and Dying retail!

15 comments:

  1. I CANNOT WAIT to go to this store!!!!

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  2. I would have never guessed that is a Kmart looking at the grocery section. It looks like Kmart was going for a more modern look in their newer Super K stores. If they would have continued to have grown this concept aggressively in the 1990's the company may have been in better shape by 2002. The money spent on the Big K upgrades did little to improve sales, but adding a full service grocery to hundreds of Kmarts in the 1990's would have.
    There was a standard Kmart built in Katy outside of Houston in 2001 that was closed in 2003 with the bankruptcy. I wonder if that store had any of the same design elements of this Super K. The Super K that was near me only lasted 8 years and closed a year before Kmart left Houston. The Super K had a small revamp not too long before closing but it was wasted money.

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  3. This store would have had the red triangle decor before. I am not sure if it was built with that look or if it got that look when it was rebranded Big Kmart. I believe this store had a pantry before it became Big Kmart, but do not know 100 percent if that is true. The grocery area has the layout of one with the red triangle look; I know that look was used as recently as 2000. In 2001 they changed to the signage package this store has for their Super Kmart stores. The Super Kmart store that used to be a mile from me had the red triangle look. I take it that the Super Kmart near you was remodeled with this decor or the red triangle? I will look into the Katy store later and see what I can find out.

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    1. I'm another reader of your blog from Houston who would appreciate any coverage of our former Kmarts that you can provide. Although we lost all our Kmarts in the 2002 bankruptcy, Kmart did have quite a history for the 40 years that they were here. 3 of the original 17 1962 stores were in Houston. We also had a lot of Kmart's not so successful concepts like the K-Chef fast food restaurants and gas stations, Designer Depot, Builders Square, Builders Square II, and Super Kmarts obviously. I guess we had at least one relatively brand new Kmart in Katy (relatively in the sense that the newest built Kmarts are from ~2002, right?), but I don't know much about that store either. We did have some 1990s stores that had the same architectural design as the Cambridge Super Kmart. The Houston Super Kmarts weren't in my part of town, but we did have Kmarts that moved into ex-Venture stores around 1997 that utilized the "triangle" Big Kmart signage. Those Venture stores were only 3-4 years old by 1997 so those were almost new stores, but they were oddball Kmarts for sure. But, yeah, Kmart did vacate some newer properties here as well as some very old ones like this very, very odd one that still has orange striping inside!

      As for the Cambridge store itself, it's a very nice Kmart. It seems like Super Kmarts have a very festive looking grocery section particularly around the perishable race track sections. This one is certainly no exception. In fact, the produce section looks a bit like the Safeway Lifestyle produce section and what Kroger has been remodeling some of their produce sections here in Houston to look like. That's pretty impressive. The green produce bags are a bit interesting. It seems like some grocers in Houston only use the green bags for organic products and keep clear bags for everything else. Is this Kmart selling organics?

      Like other Super Kmart pictures I've seen, the rest of the Kmart departments don't quite keep the festive decor unfortunately. That's a shame, but this store seems very well organized, stocked, and has wide aisles. It also looks quite clean except for the ceiling tiles. Why is it that Kmarts always seem to have dingy looking ceiling tiles and HVAC vents? Other stores with drop ceilings don't seem to have this problem, but oh well I guess.

      I can't help but notice that it looks like you had the store all to yourself. Do you think the store is doing good business? How does business compare to the Walmart Supercenter down the street? I've heard Internet rumors that Kmart plans on closing all their grocery sections, but you know how reliable Internet rumors can be. We'll see.

      Anyway, thanks for the post. I really appreciate your posts and your Flickr photostream.

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  4. Nice pics!
    -walmart3

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  5. I am sorry this is so short; I typed up a longer comment and accidentally refreshed the page. The Katy store would have most likely been a "store within a store" conversion and not a expansion. I am pretty sure the store had standard produce, but some Super Kmart stores have green bags and others have clear ones. I would have rather saw Kmart ditch the drop ceiling look and add skylights. I do like how the decor is not simply paper sign hanging from the ceiling like at Walmart. This store appears to be less busy than the Walmart nearby but some other Super Kmart stores are even busier.

    I did hear the rumors. I am going to try and visit a bunch of the stores as soon as possible.

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    1. I'm sorry, but what rumors?

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    2. I am hearing that all Super Kmart stores will convert or close in the next year. I am not sure how true that is but I will visit a few this weekend.

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  6. I enjoyed your post on this unique Super Kmart and am having a tough time distinguishing the line between the expansion and original areas of the store. The former customer service area turned deli/café section helps a bit yet the wooden floor at the front of the store along with your description left me confused.

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    1. The wood floor is for the produce area and marks the general area the dining room and prep area for the cafe was originally. I could hardly tell the store was expanded inside, but I did notice the poles that mark the original side wall are square shaped instead of the round ones found throughout the store.

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  7. I live near Cambridge. This Super K went in right before Walmart moved in almost across the street. Before the Walmart Superstore competition it would have been the only store like it for a 35 mile radius.

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  8. is this store still open looks nice

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  10. In the picture, after the Big Lots store picture mentioned about possibly might have been a Kmart store (Sign on store in picture says "Value Fresh") near the end of your pictures above, that was a store called "More For Less" owned and operated by Reisbecks grocery chain.

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  11. Since nobody mentioned it, that "Big Lots" store is a typical former Grants (six sections on top where the letters would've been spelled out)

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