Oak Harbor Kmart closing doors in late April

Michelle Martin

Oak Harbor’s Kmart is closing its doors for good in late April, according to a company spokesman.

Howard Riefs, director of corporate communications for Sears Holding Corp, said a total of 68 employees, mostly part-time and hourly workers, will lose their jobs.

And another commercial property will sit empty in the city.

On Thursday, a steady stream of customers flowed in and out of Kmart despite the rain outside. Some lamented the fate of the city’s first big-box store, built in 1988.

Katie Cornes said her family just transferred from Southern California, where a lot of Kmarts have already closed. She said the fate of the Oak Harbor store is sad.

“It’s different,” she said. “I don’t like to always go to the same store.”

Kathy Reed, director of the Oak Harbor Chamber of Director, said her biggest concern is for the people who will lose their jobs. She said she hopes another business will fill the space as quickly as possible and replace the lost jobs.

In addition, fewer shopping options isn’t good for the economy, especially when it means residents will drive off the island to find what they want.

“We want shopping dollars to stay on Whidbey Island,” she said.

Reed said Oak Harbor, like many communities, has had an inordinate numbers of businesses closing in recent years. The lot of the old Ford Dealership remains empty, the Whidbey Furniture building is deserted and several buildings downtown are vacant — including the large property of the former Armed Services YMCA.

Kmart Corporation owns the 89,000-square-foot building and 1.48 acres is sits on; the assessed value is $925,000, according to the Island County Assessor’s website.

Riefs didn’t say what, if anything, the company plans to do with the property.

Riefs wrote that the store will remain open for customers until late April.

The store begins its liquidation sale on Feb. 9.

He said “eligible” employees will receive severance and have the opportunity to apply for open positions at area Sears or Kmart stores.

Sears Holdings Corp., the parent company of Sears and Kmart, announced in 2011 that at least 100 stores will close due to declining sales.

“Store closures are part of a series of actions we’re taking to reduce on-going expenses, adjust our asset base, and accelerate the transformation of our business model,” Riefs wrote. “These actions will better enable us to focus our investments on serving our customers and members through integrated retail at the store, online and in the home.”