By Bryce Abshier – Contact Bryce@thevosm.net
Recent months marked the five year anniversary of the closing of a Belleview landmark. The last Blue Light Special officially burnt out when Kmart representatives announced that the Belleview store would permanently close in April, 2018.
The landscape of Belleview looked much different in 1985, when the famous red “K” was first mounted on the storefront at the Belleview Regional Shopping Center. The chain entered Belleview in the 1985 as a thriving retailer, bringing both excitement and job opportunities to a sleepy, small town with little else.
The original lease was signed by Kmart officials at a corporate office in Michigan on September 13, 1984.
Former Kmart employee Cynthia Sherrill remembered those early days well. At the time of closing, she worked at the Belleview Kmart for 32 years. Sherrill recalled many prosperous years of business inside the store early on. “The Garden Shop was booming, we had the entire sidewalk filled with plants,” she recalled.
A recent Facebook post by the Voice, featuring old photos from Belleview’s Kmart, brought many memories flooding back for locals. “I’ll never forget the days at Kmart. We were like a family. I started on Silver Springs 09-01-81 transferred to Belleview when we opened in 1985. 34 happy years with Kmart, it was a sad day when we closed,” wrote longtime manager Gloria Jean Bearce.
Another local missed their lay-away program. “I miss our Kmart in Belleview, the staff were always so friendly and helpful, not to mention that they still did the lay away program. Its a shame that it is not there no longer,” wrote William Jackson.
Others missed the “K Cafe”. “Remember their submarine sandwiches? They were delicious and cheap” wrote Carol Miller.
Like many, one local lamented the loss of the beloved sales that only Kmart could offer. “Blue Light Specials. Miss those days,” wrote Becky Baker.
Since the Belleview store’s closing, the years have not been kind to the Kmart corporation as a whole. Today, only three stores remain in the entire United States: Westwood, New Jersey; Bridgehampton, on New York’s Long Island; and Miami, Florida. In Kmart’s prime, there were over 2,000 US locations.
Going Down With The Ship
Much like the band on the Titanic, who played on until the ship went down, loyal Kmart employees worked until the famous red “K” was removed from the storefront.
“Shop With A Cop” At Kmart
Kmart was frequently the site of “Shop With A Cop”, an annual Christmas event by Belleview Police for underprivileged youths. Pictured above in 2014 are Ray Dwyer, former Kmart associate Sarah Vickers, former Police Chief Strickland and former associate Misty Smith.
Checking Out At Kmart
Pictured on left in 2012, Kmart cashier Joyce Spirko volunteered her time to check out the Rotary Shoppers, while Kmart Manager Jean Bearce helps bag presents that Belleview Rotary President Christine Thibodeau purchased as she shopped for the underprivileged children.
From Heyday To Final Day
The top photo shows Kmart as a booming business in the 1980s. On bottom, the store is shown in its final day, completely emptied.