Kmart to close Meridian store
ATTENTION KMART SHOPPERS Jermaine Jones of Newton pushes his son, Jaylon, 2, through the Kmart parking lot on Tuesday. Jones and his wife Latonya say that the Kmart store is one of their favorite shopping places and were saddened to hear it is one of three stores the company will close in Mississippi. Photo by Carisa McCain/The Meridian Star
By William F. West / community editor
Jan. 15, 2003
Kmart Corp. will close its Meridian store along with 325 others in Mississippi and across the country as the discount retailer tries to emerge from bankruptcy this spring.
The decision will leave 37,000 people without work, including 77 in Meridian. The announcement, which came a year after Meridian escaped an initial round of closings, saddened longtime customers.
The 67,287 square-foot Meridian store opened in November 1989, just south of Interstate 20/59 next to Highway 19 South. Employees learned Tuesday morning that the company plans to close the store.
Besides Meridian, Kmart also plans to close a more than 102,000 square-foot Super Kmart Center in Jackson and a more than 70,000 square-foot store in Yazoo City. The Jackson store had recently re-opened.
John Mitchell, manager of the Meridian store, said he plans to "stay to the end. I opened the store and I'll close it."
Mitchell, who has been with Kmart Corp. since 1976, said some of his employees were visibly shocked at the news and others took it well.
Wade Jones, president of the East Mississippi Business Development Corp. Lauderdale County's chief economic development agency met with the store's management Tuesday.
Afterward, Jones expressed disappointment at the news of the closure and sympathy for the employees and their families.
Kmart filed for bankruptcy a year ago, after failing to compete with Wal-Mart's low prices and Target's hipper merchandise. In its first round of cutbacks, Kmart closed 283 stores and cut 22,000 jobs last year.
The company still lost more than $2 billion.
Kmart is scheduled to appear in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Chicago on Jan. 28.
Company spokeswoman Betsy Reid said the court will have to approve the store closures. But once it does, she said, then most of the shutdowns will begin in about 60 to 90 days.
Reid said Kmart plans to keep its remaining Mississippi stores open. The company has two stores in Gulfport and one each in Columbus, Corinth, Southaven, Greenville, Natchez, Long Beach and Waveland.
Kmart was a pioneer in the national chain of five-and-dime stores, with S.S. Kresge opening for business in Detroit more than a century ago.
In addition to Mississippi, Kmart plans to close stores in Texas, Florida, Georgia, California, North Carolina and Puerto Rico. The company also plans to close a Texas distribution center.
Kmart stock lost 9 cents, closing at 17 cents a share Tuesday.
In Meridian, customer Jermaine Jones of Netwon said he hopes the company will return to East Mississippi in the future. Jones was pushing his 2-year-old son, Jaylon, in a buggy outside Kmart.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.