Customers lament lack of items at Allegheny Township Kmart
What’s next for the only remaining Kmart in the Alle-Kiski Valley?
Some customers shopping Tuesday at the Big Kmart in Hyde Park Shopping Center in Allegheny Township were pondering that question as they commented on changing conditions at the store.
The Valley’s only other Kmart, along Tarentum Bridge Road in New Kensington, closed Jan. 6, a casualty of Sears Holdings’ Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection filing Oct. 15 amid financial woes and massive revenue losses.
“There’s hardly anything left in there,” said Abby Zidek of East Vandergrift, standing in the parking lot of the Allegheny Township store. “I don’t think it’s going to make it.”
Zidek was shopping for a purse Tuesday and said she has shopped at this Kmart for more than a decade.
“I have noticed a decline in inventory the last few months,” she said. “We’re worried about a closure.”
A visit Tuesday by a Trib reporter revealed an open and operating store, but with fewer departments than before.
The home and garden and electronics areas are noticeably smaller than before, with reduced inventory — a mere two televisions remained for sale on a shelf in the what was once a large electronics area, now stocked with mattresses.
A sign posted in the sports department notified customers that fishing and hunting licenses are currently unavailable and store personnel said they didn’t know when they would be available again.
Numerous empty shelves are visible throughout the store.
“It seems inevitable it will close,” said Kearston Jackson, 18, of Vandergrift. “If we lose this Kmart, I would like to see a Walmart go in. I grew up shopping here.”
Store management remained mum Tuesday when asked about a possible closing.
“I am not allowed to comment,” said Jerry Zvonkovich, store manager.
Zvonkovich did confirm Kmart is under new ownership.
In a statement issued Wednesday, Sears Holdings said the company remains committed to operating the Allegheny Township Kmart, saying the company has a long-term lease for the property.
Customer Angela Gomez of Allegheny Township said she was surprised at the changes inside during her recent visit to the store.
“There was only one cashier working out of seven registers, and the store isn’t up-to-date,” Gomez said. “The other Kmarts have closed, so I feel like this one is next. I just want it to be a Sheetz.”
Linda McMannis of New Kensington said she was forced to travel more than 10 miles Tuesday to shop at the Allegheny Township Kmart.
“I was heartsick over the Kmart in New Ken closing, and now I have to drive way up here to Leechburg — and they don’t always have what you want. Where are people going to get some good clothing that is at a good price without driving clear across the river? I prefer shopping on my side of the river,” McMannis said.
During its peak in the 1990s, Kmart operated more than 2,300 stores. Currently, 202 Kmart stores remain open nationwide, with 23 still operating in Pennsylvania.
Kmart was a subsidiary of Sears Holdings Corp. until 2019 when Transform Holdco, referred to as “New Sears” and owned by billionaire Edward Lampert, purchased all assets owned by Sears Holdings for $5.2 billion.
Joe Sabot of Gilpin said online shopping is appealing to many people these days and brick-and-mortar stores are feeling the pinch.
“I’ve only been there (Kmart) once last year for a hunting license, and online has simplified shopping but is killing retail,” Sabot said. “We do online everything, straight to our door. It’s easier — way easier — when you have little ones.”
Joyce Hanz is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.