I have to admit I was a little sad to hear that Fairfield’s Kmart will close its doors in September. It’s obviously a blow to the employees and longtime customers, as well as residents who fear the shopping center will sit vacant and blighted for years like the former Mission Village shopping center did before Walmart moved in.
Kmart was one of my hangouts when I was a kid. My friend Dan, a.k.a. Chumley, and I used to ride our bikes down Air Base Parkway to Kmart. We’d buy toys like Star Wars action figures or Atari cartridges and have lunch in the snack bar. For a time, my brother Orvis worked security there so they didn’t mind us hanging out. It was where we chilled before the mall opened in 1981 and became the default teen hangout.
From there we might go down and thumb through the catalog in Consumers Distributing and then stop by Thrifty for one of their famous cylindrical-scooped ice cream cones.
I have mostly good memories of Kmart growing up except for the time my bicycle was stolen from there. My bike was tricked out with side mirrors, battery-operated turn signals and a water bottle holding grape Kool-Aid. Three weeks later, Fairfield police called to tell me they’d found it. And the grape Kool-Aid was still in the bottle! (I didn’t drink it.)
But I, probably like most of you, haven’t shopped at Kmart in years.
Prior to Walmart moving in, one of the arguments against it was that it would close down Kmart. Before we castigate Walmart and lament Kmart’s closing too much, let’s remember that we’re not talking about a mom and pop operation here. In its heyday, Kmart helped drive other chain department stores out of business. Let’s not kid ourselves. Kmart filed bankruptcy in 2002. It’s own failure to update its image quick enough and modernize let Target slip past it and become precisely what Kmart wanted to be.
Like I said, when was the last time you shopped there? If they were doing boffo business, this wouldn’t be one of the Kmarts on the chopping block. And our Kmart had its problems long before Walmart opened up down the street. That’s capitalism.
So what should anchor the space once Kmart closes its doors? One letter writer suggested a roller rink, something Fairfield has been missing since the old Skateland closed its doors. It’s not a bad idea. I’ve always thought an entertainment complex could do well in that location. Imagine movie theaters. We haven’t had theaters on that end of town since the old Chief Cinemas where Raley’s is on North Texas Street. Also, something like a John’s Incredible Pizza (think Chuck E. Cheese on steroids) would be a hot kids attraction. Maybe a laser tag or other party-type facility might find a good home in that location.
Those types of businesses wouldn’t compete with a Walmart so it would be a good fit.
Change is the one thing we can always count on. Something new will rise from the ashes of Kmart and life will go on. And years from now my brother Tony will get a “Back in the Day” column out of it. Peace.
Kelvin Wade is the author of “Morsels” Vols. I and II. Email him at [email protected]