After 38 Years, Kmart Permanently Closes Doors – Closing of Retail Giant

Kmart employee Shawn Barg helps load toys into an ambulance Sunday to go toward the Fill the Ambulance effort. Barg and his fellow employees pooled their money to purchase toys for the annual fundraiser, that gives the items to the local Salvation Army.

Shoppers take advantage of 95-percent off all remaining items at Kmart Sunday afternoon.

After 38 years, Kmart permanently closed its doors Sunday at 3 p.m.

International Falls Fire Department Engineer Mandy Sears loads toys purchased by Kmart employees into the ambulance Sunday night. The department organizes an annual toy drive to support the local Salvation Army.

In the wake of losing their jobs, a group of Kmart employees this week gave back to those in need.

kmart employee

Just hours after the store permanently closed its doors at 3 p.m. Sunday, an International Falls Ambulance pulled up to the store to collect five carts full of toys to distribute to the local Salvation Army. Employees pooled their money together to purchase toys for the Fill the Ambulance effort.

Robin Barstow, who has been a Kmart employee for 15 years, told The Journal the group has always given to the annual International Falls Fire/Rescue/EMS toy drive, however, because the store was closing, it wasn’t held at the store this year. Still, employees wanted to help out.

“We went to our liquidator and asked her if we could do this,” Barstow said.

After pooling together more than $200, the employees were able to purchase toys at a discounted price.

“It’s one last thing we could do for the community as a group,” Barstow said, adding leftover cash was also given to the effort.

Mayor Harley Droba was expressed his gratitude to the employees for the act of kindness.

“A special thank you to the employees of Kmart, who on their last day of work, donated a handful of toys,” he said.

Emotional day

kmart employees

This week was emotional for many Kmart employees.

Among a large group of final shoppers, Barstow announced the store was officially closed at 3 p.m. Sunday, after 38 years of business. In the announcement, she acknowledged the community for its loyalty, and thanked her co-workers for the friendships, which was followed by an applause — and a few tears — from shoppers.

“It’s been quite a day,” Barstow said Sunday night as she rang up the final toys.

The closure date has been looming since the end of August when Transform Holdco, or TransformCo, of which Kmart is a subsidiary, made the announcement to close the store in International Falls and another one in St. Paul.

“After careful review, we have made the difficult but necessary decision to close the Kmart store in International Falls, Minn.,” the company said in a statement released in September.

The local store employs 42 people, according to a manager.

Droba referred to the closure as the end of an era.

“This has been here since I was a kid,” he said of the store. “On the upside, we will have some new stuff come in. Change is good.”

The mayor said local officials have been working with a group to reform the 83,000-square foot building.

“(It will be) something that it needs to be – something for the 2020s,” Droba said. “I want to thank our community for supporting this business for so many years… I want to thank Kmart for serving our community as long as it has.”