OTTUMWA — A second major retailer in town has announced it is closing.
"The Kmart store at 1131 N. Quincy Ave. in Ottumwa will close to the public in mid-April," said Howard Riefs, director of corporate communications for Sears Holdings, which owns Kmart. "Until then, the store will remain open for customers."
Connie Hammersley-Wilson, executive director of the Ottumwa Area Chamber of Commerce, was saddened when the Courier told her the news but remained hopeful, too.
"I hate to see them go," she said, "that we're losing two fabulous stores. But this is an open door for other department-type stores to [see] there's an opportunity in Ottumwa. But people have to be smart about how they present Ottumwa. We're under the microscope, with [decision-makers] saying, 'Is that the type of place I want to open a store?'"
She wasn't shocked by the information.
"It's a sign of the times. There's so much competition with people buying online. The big stores can't compete with a lot of the [online] shopping people are doing nowadays."
On an official level, the Sears executive told the Courier that: "Store closures are part of a series of actions we’re taking to reduce ongoing expenses, adjust our asset base and accelerate the transformation of our business model."
Stores have been opening and closing for a long time in Ottumwa, said Hammersley-Wilson.
"To persevere, you have to be able to evolve."
And we will get through this, she said.
"You know, we had Woolworth's downtown, and we had Kresge's and they both closed, and everyone said, 'Ottumwa's done. Downtown's done. Close the door. Turn off the light. It's over.' But that wasn't the case," she said. "We reinvented ourselves once again. We built up other shopping districts, we built the mall, bringing back that southeast Iowa shopping hub mentality. And now downtown is coming back."
The Ottumwa Kmart store has 38 employees.
"Those associates that are eligible will receive severance and have the opportunity to apply for open positions at area Sears or Kmart stores," Riefs wrote in an email to the Courier. "Most of the associates are part time/hourly."
"What I have to say is if people want these stores to stay, they have to shop at them — not online. Go to all of our [shopping] districts," Hammersley-Wilson said. "Let this be a signal to shop at our area stores."
Sears HQ says the Ottumwa store will begin its "liquidation sale" on Jan. 24.
— Ottumwa Courier reporter Mark Newman can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @couriermark