The last Kmart around is closing – an emotional farewell to childhood (Opinion)
I have written a few posts like this before, and I always feel a little strange that I feel so emotionally attached to something as seemingly insignificant as a retail store. But I do. Why? Because when you raise kids in New Jersey, so much of your experience with them is where you have taken them to buy kid stuff. Like art supplies, school supplies, food, clothing; all the essentials for bringing up kids.
The Kmart in West Long Branch was one of the places I spent so much time with my kids throughout so many stages of their lives. It was a five minute drive from the house, and stayed open till 10 p.m. So when a kid said "oh yeah I need a piece of oak tag" or a black wig or a yellow T-shirt for a costume and they needed it for school TOMORROW, we would jump in the car and run there.
This is unlike any other time in history. Everybody knows a store or two that is now defunct that they have happy memories of. But when you talk about what amounts to a veritable retail apocalypse, with store after store shutting their doors on a daily basis, it’s a different story. We are watching the world change so quickly before our eyes that every time another store closes, I feel a huge chunk of my life as a parent slipping away.
I’m not sure why I didn’t really believe that it would happen to this particular store. After all, the company closed the last three Jersey Shore-area stores in Brick, Toms River and Wall over the last year or two, so I should’ve seen it coming. But something about the West Long Branch store just made me feel like it would stay forever. It was really in a good location and it just seem to be like the little engine that could, fighting it out all of these years with so much competition going up around it.
I can’t tell you the amount of last minute art projects, science fair materials and school supplies were purchased there. But the real sign of my enduring tie to that store over the years and how it symbolized the progression of my kids from children to adults was this: uniforms. Hunter green polo shirts and khakis for my son in Long Branch public school. White and light blue polo shirts and khakis for my kids in private school, and eventually navy blue and red polo shirts for my son’s first and second real jobs, respectively. From ages 5 to 20, that Kmart in West Long Branch had them covered. Four kids grown, and now Kmart, having fulfilled its main purpose for me, is done. It’s strange to say it, but it actually gets me teary-eyed.
“After careful review, we have made the difficult but necessary decision to close the Kmart store in West Long Branch, NJ,” TransformCo, the owner of Kmart said in a statement, according to an article by our own Erin Vogt on on nj1015.com. The store will close in April. “We encourage customers to continue shopping on Kmart.com for all their product needs,” they continued. Yeah, but we probably won’t.
After all, now when we need a polo shirt, we can get it the next day from Amazon. And if it doesn’t work we can wrap it back up and ship it right back. Shopping with our kids was a different era. And time marches on.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the West Long Branch Kmart was the last in New Jersey. It's the last in the Jersey Shore area.
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