Kmart closing last remaining California store still in operation

"It was going downhill slowly but surely," said a Kmart customer in Grass Valley, California. "But poor Kmart."

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Monday, December 20, 2021
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The last remaining Kmart store still in operation on the West Coast will soon close its doors for good.

GRASS VALLEY, Calif. -- The last remaining Kmart store still in operation on the West Coast will soon close its doors for good.

The store in Grass Valley, California, is set to close on Sunday.

It's one of series of store closings that will leave the company with only a handful of locations in the continental United States still in business by year's end.

Every item in the store was up for grabs in the days leading up to the closure, including fixtures, products, shelves and more.

"It was going downhill slowly but surely as far as stocking things," said Joanne Haines, a Kmart customer. "But poor Kmart."

Last month, Kmart shuttered its last-remaining store in Michigan, the state where the once-proud retail chain launched in 1899.

"I used to work here a long time ago so I thought I'd come by and say goodbye," said Grass Valley resident Shawn Sutton. "It's kind of a sweet and sad moment at the same time. Yeah, I miss it."

Kmart is owned by Sears. The big box store purchased the chain out of bankruptcy in 2005.

There were 2,100 Kmart locations at the time of its 2002 bankruptcy filing, and 1,400 when it was purchased by Sears.

The combined company, Sears Holdings, itself filed for bankruptcy in 2018, and although it survived that process, it has since been closing stores under both brands in what retail experts describe as a "slow motion liquidation."

Kmart started in the late 19th century when founder Sebastian Spering Kresge opened a five-and-dime store in downtown Detroit bearing his name. The Kmart brand didn't come about until 1962. The chain grew rapidly for several decades, claiming the discount segment of the market that big box stores such as Walmart and Target now dominate.

Kmart became known for its 15-minute-long "blue light specials": a store would flash a blue light and announce "attention Kmart shoppers" over the public address system, and customers would rush to buy the discounted goods. The promotions started in 1965 but were discontinued in 1991, although Kmart has tried to bring them back several times.

Another six Kmarts are spread across Puerto Rico, Guam and the US Virgin Islands. The four in the Virgin Islands account for twice as many Kmart stores than in any U.S. state.

The demise of Kmart in Grass Valley has now left a hole in Nevada County's retail landscape, but not for long.

According to county records, a half-a-million dollar permit confirms the start of a Target store remodel on the property.

CNN contributed to this report.