The blue light burns out: Last Kmart in Manhattan closes doors for good

Attention Kmart shoppers: It’s the end of the discount store’s era in Manhattan.

Kmart on Astor Place in the East Village unceremoniously closed its doors for the last time on Monday, much to the chagrin of shoppers who were still attempting to access the store.

Kmart at 770 Broadway closed on July 12. The final sales were made on July 11. Photo by Dean Moses

For over two decades, the Kmart at 770 Broadway has been a one-stop-shop for many lower Manhattanites and even those traveling from Uptown or the outer boroughs.

However, on July 12, the once three-floor department store — which had shrunk to two floors by 2018 —shuttered their revolving doors for good, leaving some confused and others reminiscing of memories made there.

The morning was filled with disappointment for prospective consumers as one by one they sidled up to the storefront, only to find it locked or to be turned away by security guards inside saying, “Out of business.” 

Some brought carriages that would ultimately remain empty while others even tried to make returns.

Shoppers were taken aback by Kmart’s quiet closure. Photo by Dean Moses

Clare Summers lugged a carpet over her shoulder and was shocked after yanking at the doors.

“It’s going to be a bummer for the NYU kids, but I don’t necessarily think these big box stores have a super great place in the city, so I am not super sad about it,” Summers said. “I just have no idea how I am going to return this.”

Several New Yorkers see the Astor Place location as more than just a store and instead a hub filled with memories of their youth.

A security guard firmly locks Kmart’s entrance doors. Photo by Dean Moses

“I used to hang out here with my friends,” Snow said as he gazed through the glass. “What was cool about this place is that you didn’t have to buy anything. You could just look around. There was even a couch on the bottom floor you could sit on and watch the subway.”

The tidal wave of closures began in 2018, when Sears Holding Corp. — the parent company of Kmart — filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and since then stores have been closing throughout the country. Approximately 96 were closed by February 2020, one being the iconic West 34th Street location at Penn Station, which shuttered in May 2020.

In mid-April 2021, about 18 Sears stores and eight Kmart shops had seen their last of their days —  and now this summer the final stronghold in Lower Manhattan has gone by the wayside. 

Snow remembers hanging out with friends at Kmart like any teenager would do in a mall. Photo by Dean Moses

After filing for bankruptcy four years ago, Kmart was acquired by Transformco and while some of the retailers were spared from liquidation, the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic was the final straw that broke the discount store’s back with numerous shops being shuttered. 

Shoppers told amNewYork Metro on Monday that they were disgusted regarding the lack of communication, which resulted in customers pleading through the entrance doors with security guards for information, especially for those looking to use Kmart’s pharmacy.

This portion of the store is said to remain open until July 17 so that patrons may pick up any remaining prescriptions.

Loleta Rowe speaks to a security guard through glass doors. Photo by Dean Moses

“It’s terrible to leave 34th street to take the bus to come over here, and then to see that it closed. It’s not good,” Loleta Rowe said, sharing her grief over the Herald Square location closing down and now the Lower Manhattan site. 

For Rowe, discount stores are a necessity to purchase clothes, kitchen utensils, and other items. She believes that Kmart’s closure may just be another business to succumb to the economic crisis plaguing companies since the pandemic, but she says she is optimistic for better days.

“All the stores are going, and what are we going to do next? I just hope things get better,” Rowe said. 

There are now only 23 Kmart shops left in the country, and just four open in New York. 

amNewYork Metro reached out to Transformco for comment, and is awaiting a response.

A mother attempted to purchase a toy for her daughter, but was surprised when she encountered locked doors. Photo by Dean Moses