We're told that employees weren't told of the Sunday close date until this past Friday. Signs announcing the last days were circulated throughout the store on Saturday.
Still, the closure isn't likely a complete surprise — at least to reporters covering the retail market. Earlier this year, Kmart's parent firm, Transformco, announced that it was closing several locations. (This outpost was not on a previously announced list.)
In May 2020, they shuttered the Penn Plaza store, leaving Astor Place as the sole Kmart remaining in Manhattan. (There are two left in the Bronx.)
Kmart and Sears were owned by Sears Holdings, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2018 and narrowly escaped liquidation in early 2019, per USA Today. "They were sold to their longtime investor and CEO, Eddie Lampert, who has kept them alive on a shoestring budget under the company name Transformco."
Rumors circulated in late 2017-early 2018 that the Astor Place shop, located in the landmarked 15-story building that was the original home of the Wanamaker department store on Eighth Street and Lafayette (officially 770 Broadway), was shutting down.
The Real Deal reported in January 2018 that 770 tenant Facebook and landlord Vornado Realty Trust were in talks to expand the social media giant's presence in the building.
Per The Real Deal:
Per The Real Deal:
Vornado ... recently paid roughly $46 million to Kmart – whose department store occupies about 30,000 square feet on the ground, mezzanine and lower-level of the building – in what appears to be a buyout of the retailer’s lease, according to city property records. Observers said it's unlikely that Vornado boss Steve Roth would take such a risk without a replacement tenant lined up, and speculated that Facebook could be looking to make a splash with a high-profile storefront, a la Microsoft's store on Fifth Avenue.
However, Kmart remained open and downsized, giving up the second level and moving everything to the main floor and basement.
Michael Lisicky reported on the Astor Place location for Forbes in March:
Despite its current open status, the location suffers from the company's misfortunes and corporate misguidances. Employees express frustration that deliveries to the store have slowed. They cite the absence of blankets, pillows, and towels within its once-popular home department. Employees notice that its once-steady foot traffic tends to come and go.
After years of missed payments and unpaid bills, Kmart's relationship with many of its longtime vendors has evaporated. It has led to empty shelves and unusual selections of off-brand merchandise. ... Kmart is no longer a profitable and dependable outlet for suppliers.
Financial woes aside, other big-box shops such as Target and Marshalls have eaten away at Kmart's business. Not to mention Amazon.
I took a last look at the space yesterday...
EVG reader Karen came across the store-closing signage while walking by yesterday: "Most other customers seemed equally shocked and dismayed. Shelves were fully stocked for the most part and there weren't really any big bargains — though with the longest line I've ever seen, seems people just wanted to have their last hurrah."
This Kmart arrived in November 1996. I worked nearby at the time and ate at the short-lived K Cafe a few times with co-workers to fill the void left by Woolworth's departure on 14th Street.
I recall plenty of horrified WTF reactions from people about the Kmart opening here. People seemingly adopted a balanced don't-mind-it/hate-it relationship with Kmart through the years, especially as more big-box shops arrived. (My blogging friend Alex has written about this location numerous times. This post includes a video of U2's strange PopMart press conference here in 1997.)
At the time, the Astor Place store was one of over 2,100 Kmarts located throughout the 50 states and U.S. territories, according to Forbes. Today, there are less than 40.
• Are Kmart's days numbered on Astor Place?
EVG contributor Stacie Joy reports that fixtures and shelving will be sold this week — 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. starting tomorrow. There will be security at the door — just let them know that you are looking for the fixtures.
Previously on EV Grieve:
• Are Kmart's days numbered on Astor Place?
Wow. The end of an era. Not surprised though.
In the meantime, Target is taking over Manhattan. Multiple stores opened during Covid.
In a few years, Manhattan will just be Target, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Starbucks corporate chains.
Oh no, this is sad, I became fond of this Kmart! I bought a lot of kitchen items (and other things) here over the years. Sometimes I would go to Broadway Panhandler, sometimes Surprise Surprise, sometimes Kmart, and when Whisk opened on Broadway, sometimes there...now they are all gone! WTF!
Great post, EV.
End of an era. The Target folks won.
Late 1990s, I remember going to Kmart in Astor Place when I got my first apartment in NY which was in Greenwich Village. I remember Martha Stewart was a big deal then and had her line of relatively cheap yet classy household items sold there. I bought a lot of kitchen stuff, some of which I still use today. My pancake flipper, some silverware, peeler, steak knives, etc... I can't believe I am a little bit nostalgic about it, but I was young then.
I also bought a lot of Martha Stewart branded kitchen items from Kmart when I first moved to nyc. I haven’t bought housewares for years there but will miss it for cheap snacks and seasonal toys for my kid. What will take over this great space?? And the giant empty Walgreens across the street??
"I recall plenty of horrified WTF reactions from people about the Kmart opening here. People seemingly adopted a balanced don't-mind-it/hate-it relationship with Kmart through the years, especially as more big-box shops arrived."
This became my POV exactly. Throughout the years, I bought a lot of stuff there. Sad for the employee job loss.
No surprise. It was a huge space and I barely saw people shopping there. How are you going to keep up paying that kind of rent with shelves full of Joe Boxer underwear and discounted toys from decade-old fads?
fond memories of the great view from the second-floor cafe area, out those large arched windows looking out over Astor Place and down Lafayette. of course, you had to tolerate the smell of the grilled hot dogs, but still.
Sad to hear but it seemed inevitable!! This location was a mainstay for me for years!! As some have said “target is taking over”! 🤦♂️
I had heard that Wegman's was actually looking at the space a few months ago, so it seemed like this was coming.
On the other hand, I think Wegman's would be a great addition - I just don't think that the present footprint of the store is necessarily big enough to support the amount of space they would need.
I was there last week, and was totally unaware they were closing, although there was the same anemic showing of customers as usual. I often went in there, leaving empty-handed, so I'm sad I'll now have to hold my nose and shop at Target.
(Thank goodness there's still the bargain store at 5th street and 1st; patronize it, people—while they're still there!)
The place went downhill after they discontinued the Martha Steward line of housewares. Recently, the store seemed to mostly carry clothing, which didn't make much sense.
I was also puzzled as to why they painted over that locally-inspired mural that was over the checkout area. That was one of the highlights of their re-opening when they downsized, then they inexplicably painted it all red.
Damn! I had a shirt I still needed to return there! 😂
Also the end of an EV Grieve tradition of announcing the start of St. Patrick's Day, Halloween, and Christmas, of posting the appropriate merchandise display picture from the AP Kmart.
Regarding the places that have closed where one can buy kitchen supplies....there is a huge and amazing kitchen wholesale store (open to individual shoppers) on Delancey near Eldridge. They pretty much have everything you could want, at lower prices.
I went there two weeks ago hoping to buy towels but they had nothing. I’ve been getting towels and some other homeware stuff from Kmart Astor Place since I moved to East Village a decade ago.
Had I known it would have been my last visit there I would have taken pictures! End of an era indeed.
It’s probably going to be a smaller version like the mini Target on 14th and A.
Honestly, if Kmart only had the means to up their game like Target maybe they’d probably still be in business at Astor Place.
I liked it when it had the 3rd floor I used to shop there all the time after it condensed in to 2nd floor rarely ever shopped there not sure why I never really had a need for the basement
A Wegmans would be awesome!!!
Wal Mart would be nice replacement but It will probably become some corporate headquarters or a big chain supermarket.
Kudos for reminding us of Broadway Panhandler and Surprise! The Basics Plus that is in Surprise's space now has also shrunk to a storefront (as has the one on University Place) and it feels like the end of retail shopping. The new 'everything' store in Jam's old space on 3rd Ave. is immense & has a lot of stock. Give them a try for routine "I need a ...." household purchases.
RE; Retail vs Online: I needed a hotplate (don't ask). I found one on Target & the interwebby thingy said that 14th St. had TWO in stock. Thinking I'd support a "local" store, I walked over (from 2nd Ave.) to find they had none in the store. A pleasant clerk suggested they had both been sold within the hour! I went home & ordered it online & it was delivered to my door 3 days later. But shop independent local when you can.
This K Mart reminded me of my childhood. As a boy who grew up in the 80's and 90's out west, I visited our local store with my parents often for school supplies, candy, CD's, shampoo, and perennials for the summer. When I moved to the East Village from Brooklyn in 2010, I was surprised to see this K Mart, given its vast size, hence with the third former floor. I visited several times over the years but I never could find what I needed. Whenever I was inside, there was hardly anybody there, but felt like I was a kid again looking at the bright red colors everywhere, the white font letters behind it, the cold, tile floors, and of course the cherry slurpees. I am probably going to get a lot of shit for saying this, but I think much like Sears and JC Penny, K Mart has become a relic of the past. With other retailers offering more and better items at different price points geared towards all groups, the competition grew fierce. And yes, Target, is quite a popular place for numerous reasons. They were relevant when I was a teenager and have somehow managed to successfully rebrand their image as of late. They are completely fresh and modern. That is why they are ubiquitous in location and relatability. When I step into any of their stores, it is always packed and busy. Think about it. It's all about marketing and branding. K Mart oozes nostalgia and nothing more. It is sad as it is no longer part of our community. It will be very interesting to see what takes it's place in this location. RIP Kmart Astor Place
With the former Walgreens space sitting empty, that's two giant commercial spaces vacant at Astor Place. There's also the large space at Ave A & 12th that's still not leased...could this be the beginning of the end for large big-box stores in this area or am I getting my hopes up?
Sad day. I remember when this Kmart opened, there was a publicity event with some young actor from the soap opera "One Life To Live" handing out autographed copies of his headshot. I'm an actor and, ironically, I was scheduled to work a scene with this guy on the show in a couple days. I told him I found it amusing that the dozen or so protestors, objecting to the "corporate invasion" of the neighborhood, were taking 'protest breaks' at the Starbucks across the street. He gave me a side-eye when I asked him to sign MY headshot, instead of his own. When I saw him on set a couple days later, he greeted me, and said he had assumed I was just another East Village wacko, talking out my ass! RIP, Kmart.
It’s the end of an error. This store would have fit in much better on 14th Street, but Kmart has been out of touch with their local markets and retail landscape ever since billionaire Eddie Lampert took over, while he slowly dismantled it for the value of the real estate. He refused to invest in store upgrades, thinking they were too expensive, which is one reason why Target ate their lunch. But not to worry, I’m sure there are still plenty of Kmarts in Beacon, NY.
Hadn't been there in years, but back when I moved into the EV (20 or so years ago) It was great for some cheap basic home stuff.
@Giovanni - HA!
Years ago my nephew worked in K-Mart's ordering office and he said the Astor Place store was consistently the #1 performing store in the chain. No surprise, with NYU et al right there. But the guy who bought Sears and K-Mart was a classic, incompetent narcissist who drove both companies into the ground. I was never a K-Mart fan, but it is sad to see all those Sears and K-Mart store go under.
My favorite weird memory of this K-Mart is the time I was there in the basement when Lenny Kravitz apparently came through. This was probably early to mid 2000s. Some poor employee was asked to announce it on the speaker and said "Please do not look directly at him." I will never understand why he'd ask them to announce he was there if he was so intent on making a quick getaway when no one would have noticed otherwise. I still sometimes feel like I made that up, but I promise I have witnesses!
Yep, destroyed by Eddie Lampert, private equity moron. I'm surprised Lands End is even still semi-functioning.
To me, K-Mart was too closely associated with my impoverished childhood to really want to shop there. And that one was a strange space in particular. But most people really don't understand how much retail crash is driven by private equity just looking to strip a property of all it's worth.
Two large floors wouldn't be enough for a Wegmans? I have to disagree on this one
Not surprised, but too bad. Target is now the new game on E 14th Street.
Target is taking over the just closed Food Emporium store up the street in Union Square Now there are few places left to buy cheap food
End of an error, Lol? Your spelling error?
@ 7:04 AM
Trader Joe's is a private company. Doesn't quite fit with the other three. (or with k-mart, for that matter)
Uh, pretty sure this was a play on words, Jen.
Bring back Wanamaker's!!!!!
Remember there was a huge B&N across the street - and Tower Records and its outlet across Lafayette down on 4th. There was a lot of retail in this area. NYU or a Fang company will take over the space.
nothing is forever. It could have survived if they operated it like TARGET.
Also.. U2 announced their tour for POP in 1997 in the lingerie department! So Bono.
They opened 3 weeks before I moved to NYC. Bradlees and Woolworths were still on 14th st. I remember the consternation among the hipsters (of which I was surely one) but I came to adore it in a way. I remember all of it - the cafe with its art shows, the U2 thing, etc. I just hope something useful goes in its place. Adios and godspeed beautiful cheesy Kmart.
@3:06: No, it's not an error of spelling at all! It's the doggone honest TRUTH about Eddie Lampert, who has single-handedly and single-mindedly destroyed some of the most iconic retailers in the USA b/c he sees them as only worth the $$$ of the real estate they occupy.
He doesn't know bupkis about retailing; he also doesn't care about retailing. He just likes to cash in on the real estate. And of course he imagines himself to be a genius.
According to people who track the store closings, there are now only 17 remaining Kmarts. There are eleven remaining in the 50 states, one each in Guam and Puerto Rico, and cusiously enough four in the US Virgin Islands.
Anecdotally, at least, inventories are getting very thin in the remaining stores, indeed that seemed to be happening at Astor Place. It's a common experience among failing store chains. They usually can't afford to pay for merchandise upon delivery, and vendors won't sell them merchandise on terms.
`To those who are uninformed about Eddie Lampert and Finance, BOTH of those chains were dying when he bought them. True he didn't spend to upgrade the stores but it wasnt as if he put them into their death swoon. They were already at bottom when he took them over.
Thank you for that info, I was going to go to MACY*S
I remember everyone FREAKING OUT when it opened, for all of the same reasons why we all freaked out before Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Target, and other “suburban” places took hold here in Manhattan.
Now it’s all normal, I’m sure Amazon will eventually cast a huge shadow here. Look at Facebook and Google, gobbling up space as fast as they can.
I was at that kooky U2 press conference, one of theeeeWEIRDEST events I’ve ever been to - and I once saw David Lee Roth climb the roof at Tower Sunset (where I worked), much to the shock and horror of his label.
Ahhhh, the good old days.
Most likely will be a production studio for Facebook or Verizon Media (Build Studios), both which lease most of the old Wanamaker building
They might get the third floor??
When this K-Mart opened, everyone said 'New York is over.'
Now this K-mart is closing and everyone is saying, 'New York is over.'
@ DJ Crystal Clear
Did you work at Tower Sunset Blvd?
Cool, if you did. Would spend hours and hours there in my youth.
Just saw documentary "All Things Must Pass". Loved it.
I still miss S. Klein, Mays (J. W. May), Bradlees, Caldor, and Odd Job...
Wow - they opened about a year after I moved to NYC. I didn't particularly like that store - it always seemed poorly stocked- but I bought so much useful stuff there. I still use all the Christmas ornaments I bought there
I'm taking this as a sign to start shopping at Macy*s for real; a few years ago I even got my Macy*s card—and I don't otherwise have any other credit cards, so that's a big deal.
I suppose I'd even shop at Bloomingdale's—which is owned by Macy*s—but way back in 1998, during the holiday season, I was hired to work at Bloomingdales' #1 store up on 59th street. I lasted two weeks, and as I was ringing up a $400 sale, a store detective came in and led me away.
Folks, don't ever take a urine test. I had to sit in a room and wait for a man named Lloyd to tell me they had detected the poppyseeds I'd had for breakfast—I didn't know! I hadn't seen that episode of Seinfeld!—and pronounced me a junkie. That was the end of my Bloomingdale's career.
To this day I can't bring myself to shop at Bloomie's—although if I happen to be walking a dog near either of their Manhattan stores, I'll walk in, because they're pet-friendly.
@equared™: Let's not even talk about Unnique Clothing Warehouse, Canal Jean Company, and Think Big! (in Soho—home of the giant pencil and paper clip.)
When I was a tiny tot in the 60s, there was a Caldor in my home town of Hamden, Connecticut; the most striking thing about it was the huge—to me, at the time—neon sign that spelled out C A L D O R in all caps.
While I'm on the subject of neon, let me urge everyone to pay a visit to Let There Be Neon in Tribeca; they are a national treasure, and have been in business at least 30 years. They're dog-friendly, too—or were, before the pandemic.
Some Sears/K Mart spaces have become Aldis or Primark. I wouldn’t mind either of those or a Wegmans. The bank on the Broadway side of the building has been closed for a long time and I believe the Ann Taylor. They perhaps can combine the spaces.
Aldi would be nice. Their prices are so good
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