New Smyrna Beach Kmart closing its doors for good
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City officials silent; county leaders saddened with 3 stores on chopping block
NEW SMYRNA BEACH -- Lifetime resident Janet Lutz pushed her shopping cart out the front doors of Kmart Thursday night, after learning the store was closing for good. Earlier in the day, Sears holding, Inc., the corporate owner of Sears and Kmart stores, formally announced 79 of its stores under these two brands nationwide, ceasing operations.
The 60-year-old woman was heartbroken by the news that the Kmart here on State Road 44 is among them.
"You don't want to believe this is happening, but there's nothing you can do about it," she said, pushing the cart with a giant bag of Kittles cat food.
In Fact, Volusia County has the distinction of being the only county statewide to lose three stores: the Kmart here, the Kmart in Orange City and a Sears in DeLand.
A night manager at the NSB Kmart said she could not discuss the closing or how many employees would lose their jobs, but NSBNews.net talked to three employees inside and they estimated between 45 and 60 jobs would be gone.
One of the clerks on the floor had tears in his eyes. Neither he nor the others wanted to comment further, citing corporsate policy that prohibits them fromtalking to the media.
Neither New Smyrna Beach Mayor Adam Barringer nor Commissioners Jim Hathaway, Judy Reiker, Jack Grasty and Lynne Plaskett would comment, despite a detailed e-mail message left for them, which showed they had received the message and read it. Hathaway is an announced candidate for the district 3 seat on the Volusia County Council.
Ellen Darden, the outgoing president of the New Smyrna Beach Board of Realtors, and an announced candidate for the same County Council seat, said the news of the Kmart closing is nothing short of devastating.
"Not just for the people losing their jobs, but their families, too," Darden said. "And right after Christmas."
Volusia County Councilman Frank Bruno, who along with the New Smyrna Beach officials was basking in the limelight of the new Walmart supercenter just west of the I-95 interchange, told NSBNews.net, that he, too, feels the pain of those who are going to lose their jobs, not only here but in the other two stores in the county as well.
"Our prayers are with the employees and their families," Bruno said. "It's the corporate world we live in. I hate to be cold but it's a fact of life that this happens. It's ashame for it happening this time of the year with the holidays and everything."
County Council Vice Chair Pat Nothey said losing three stores, the most of any county in Florida and perhaps in the nation is a wake up call that the economic doldrums here are far worse than imagined.
"This just screams out at us -- that we need to do something -- and what that is I don't really know right now," said Northey, of Deltona. "I'm not sure anybody does. The store stores closing near me and the one in New Smyrna Beach show the hurt is deep."
County Council member Joyce Cusack of DeLand, born in New Smyrna Beach, told NSBNews.net the closings are of great concern to her and should be to government leaders in Volusia at all levels, after being told that not none of New Smyrna Beach's elected officials bothered to comment on the loss of jobs.
"It's just more bad news for families who can least afford to be out of work," Cusack said. "I feel absolutely horrible for the people losing their jobs. It's just more bad news for Volusia County."
Sears Holding had announced Turesday that as may as 120 stores nationwide would close, but hadn't said which ones. Corporate officialds did not say when the stores would close but they emphasized it was imminent.
For Janet Lutz, the closing of the Walmart up the street in favor of the supercenter nearly four miles west, coupled with the Kmart closing, means an even bigger inconvenience for shoppers worried about the extra gas to drive further west on 44.
"I drove eight miles just to get here," she said, adding she lives near the New Smyrna Beach Municipal Airport. "We had the Walmart right up the street, but that's closed and it's a ways to the new Walmart."
Richard Bates, who works for Noewood's Restaurant on the South Causeway, said having two consecutive plazas here at the Kmart and at the NSB Regional Center where Walmart was does not bode well for New Smyrna Beach.
"There is nobody to take these buildings over -- not any time soon in this economy," he said, entering the Kmart for perhaps the final time.
About the Blogger
Henry Frederick is editor/publisher of Headline Surfer, Florida's first 24/7 Internet newspaper, launched April 7, 2008 in New Smyrna Beach, and accessed via HeadlineSurfer.com, NSBNews.net & VolusiaNews.net. Headline Surfer is a registered trademark of NSB News LLC. Frederick was the top winner in the 2012 Florida Press Club contest: 1st place for Blog Writing & 3rd place each for General News Writing, Public Safety Reporting & Best Online Presence (with social media). He's received 18 major journalism awards as a breaking news, investigative reporter & city editor for daily newspapers in Florida, Massachusetts, New York & Connecticut since the mid-1980s.
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