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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Store closure came as a shock to local manager, employees

By Jason Stuart

Ranger-Review Staff Writer

The Glendive Kmart will officially close its doors as of Oct. 1 of this year.

Word of the store’s closing first hit Friday morning via a “leak” to Gannett company newspapers, including the Great Falls Tribune, and was made official over the weekend. The Great Falls Kmart is also part of the latest round of store closings by Sears Holdings, owner of the Kmart chain. 

The company has shuttered hundreds of Sears and Kmart stores around the country in recent years as it struggles to turn a profit, though the Glendive Kmart appears to have been a profitable store, according to store manager Michael Cooley.

“It has traditionally been a money-maker,” Cooley said of the Glendive Kmart.

Given that, he noted he and the other Kmart employees were as surprised as anyone when word came down of the decision to close it. Cooley said that decision was made by company board members on the East Coast “who have no contact with us,” and that he has been given no specific reasoning for the decision.

“The reason for the closing, there’s not a definitive reason,” Cooley said. “We don’t have a reason that’s specific or straightforward.”

Cooley did mention that while he was given no specific reasons for this Kmart’s closing, “real estate concerns,” apparently did factor into it.

Kmart owns its building, but it sits within the river floodplain, which remains an unsettled issue between the Glendive community and federal agency regulators. 

As it currently stands, building a new building on the site or building on to the existing one would be nearly impossible due to federal flood insurance regulations. Even renovating the interior is limited by that same factor.

Similar concerns previously contributed to the decision to close Glendive’s McDonald’s restaurant. 

Not counting summer seasonal workers, Cooley said the impact to the local job market of Kmart’s closing would be about 20 permanent employees. The majority of the employees at Kmart are part time, he further noted.

With the store closing date now official, Cooley offered up his personal regrets to the community.

“We regret the impact to the community,” he said. “We know we have a lot of loyal customers who are disappointed, and we hate to break this news to them.”

Reach Jason Stuart at rrreporter@rangerreview.com.

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