What good is a grocery store if you can't pick up a pair of cheap jean shorts while you're buying Doritos? Yeah, you can get those things at Target and WalMart, but you also can at Kmart - the perennial third place discount mega store. The mega store that has closed and abandoned locations just like this one all across the US.
|- Kmart, Ridge Rd. Photograph by Ronny Salerno|
I moved to Northern Kentucky in 2010 and discovered just how wonderful Jet's Pizza is. One day, I decided to pick it up after work instead of calling in delivery. I drove to the Newport location for the first time and as I pulled into the lot I was amazed to see a Kmart. There's plenty of abandoned ones around, but this one was different - it was open. The lights were on and people were walking in and out of it. I thought I had mistakingly driven my car through some sort of trans-warp conduit, flying back in time Marty Mcfly style to the mid 90's. I thought Kmart was totally gone, but tere in Newport the "Blue Light Specials" could still be found.
The same can't be said for this particular Kmart off of Ridge Rd. in Cincinnati though. The sprawling store sits in a massive parking lot where the cracks in the asphalt mirror that of a dry lake. At one end of the parking lot is the remaining foundation of the store's recently demolished auto repair center:
|- Auto repair center foundation. Photograph by Ronny Salerno|
And at the other end, a closed bank that looks like it could reopen at any moment:
EDIT: Thanks to reader David Merkowitz who pointed out that this bank was originally a National City branch before being converted to a PNC after PNC's purchase of National City.
|- Vacant bank. Photograph by Ronny Salerno|
The lot's lights and shopping cart corrals continue to rust, while a faded logo for the "Little Caesar's Pizza Station" can still be seen.
|- Cart corral. Photograph by Ronny Salerno|
Kmart filed Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in 2002. A new CEO was brought in to change things, but he pulled an Enron-style scam and just screwed things up even more for the company that was failing to keep up with the ever expanding competition. The chain dismissed the new CEO, closed 300 stores, laid off ~34,000 employees and began rolling out new prototype stores. The new prototype was cancelled when the company didn't have enough money to execute it nationwide.
|- Looking inside at the former "garden center." Photograph by Ronny Salerno|
Eventually though, Kmart emerged from bankruptcy and finally started showing signs of improvement, they even bought rival Sears and started merging the two stores in certain locations. By 2011 though, they began closing stores again.
|- "Please park carts here." Photograph by Ronny Salerno|
At their peak, Kmart had stores in 49 U.S. States, all U.S. territories, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand. Today, Kmart is just limited to the U.S. and its territories. Despite the discount chain's decline, they've been in the news recently with a new marketing format. The store's "ship my pants" and "big gas savings" commercials have been viral hits on the internet.
|- Pizza station. Photograph by Ronny Salerno|
Will those viral hits turn into customers though or will the abandoned Kmart scene continue to be common amongst suburbia?
|- Bank drive through. Photograph by Ronny Salerno|