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Tarpon Springs will seek replacement for Kmart closing Nov. 15

Helen Bruns of Tarpon Springs leaves Kmart after shopping Tuesday afternoon. The store will close Nov. 15, leaving the city without a big-box store. “It’s going to be a loss,” Bruns said.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Helen Bruns of Tarpon Springs leaves Kmart after shopping Tuesday afternoon. The store will close Nov. 15, leaving the city without a big-box store. “It’s going to be a loss,” Bruns said.

TARPON SPRINGS — After 35 years of offering clothing, household goods and electronics, Kmart will flash its blue light no more in Tarpon Springs.

The store, known for its "blue light specials," will shut its doors at 41232 U.S. 19 on Nov. 15. The closure will leave 84,180 square feet vacant in the Tarpon Square complex.

"We are always evaluating our portfolio, and as leases come due, we evaluate them," said Kim Freely, spokeswoman for Sears Holding Corp., which owns Kmart. "I'm not going to go into specifics of the lease."

Freely confirmed the closing Tuesday and said there are 62 employees at the Tarpon Springs location. Those employees are being notified of open positions at other locations. Also, employees who qualify are being offered severance packages.

Kmart stores are in New Port Richey, Hudson, Clearwater, Largo, Seminole, Lutz and Tampa.

The only other Kmart closing in Florida is in Venice, Freely said. It also will close on Nov. 15.

A going-out-of-business sale will begin Sept. 17 at the Tarpon Springs location.

"It's a blow to the community to lose the Kmart," Mayor Beverley Billiris said. "They are laying off … employees, and many of those are citizens of the city. We hope someone comes in and provides employment to our residents. In these tough economic times, residents need jobs."

Commissioner Susan Slattery echoed those comments.

"I don't like to see empty storefronts, and we have too many in this town," Slattery said. "It's unfortunate we will be losing a store that's been here for some time. It's very disappointing to see, and hopefully it doesn't stay empty too long."

Kmart first opened its doors in Tarpon Springs in 1974.

Billiris is hopeful that a Target will be interested in making the site its home. Slattery was thinking along the lines of a Barnes & Noble.

Tarpon Springs' city manager, Mark LeCouris, said he immediately began conversations with the city's chamber of commerce and the property's management company, Developers Diversified Realty.

"We all will be searching for somebody to come put some jobs back and something that is viable," LeCouris said.

Now, Tarpon Springs will be void of a Kmart, Target and Wal-Mart genre of store, LeCouris said.

And for Tarpon Springs resident Fred King, that's a problem.

"It doesn't give us too many places to shop," said King, 66, who goes to Kmart for toiletries, car parts and housewares. "Those things are usually less expensive at Kmart and Wal-Mart. With the economy the way it is, we need all the breaks we can get."

Demorris A. Lee can be reached at 445-4174 or dalee@sptimes.com.

Tarpon Springs will seek replacement for Kmart closing Nov. 15 08/11/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 11, 2009 10:17pm]
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