Monday, January 20, 2003

Kmart outlet one of shortest-lived

By Jon Gambrell
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LEBANON - The Kmart on the bustling northern side of this city was one of the company's newest, and will be one of the company's shortest-lived.

The Kmart at 1425 Columbus Ave. in the Watson Crossing shopping center opened 16 months ago but is being closed with 323 other stores across the country labeled by the corporation as "under-performing."

The exact closing date hasn't been announced for the Lebanon store, which had more than 75 workers. The Lebanon store was among five in Greater Cincinnati that had been marked to close.

The Kmart chain, based in Troy, Mich., has been struggling through Chapter 11, declaring a net loss of $383 million in the third fiscal quarter of 2002.

While Lebanon's population has doubled over the past 25 years, vice-mayor James Reinhard questioned whether that would be enough to support the chain department store.

However, Mr. Reinhard did say that the local Wal-Mart and a recently opened Home Depot store had been doing well.

In terms of taxes, the closing won't be a blow to the city. Lebanon had collected about $2,000 from Kmart through a 1 percent employment tax.

"(The tax) was not a tremendous amount," Mr. Reinhard said. "But they were an employer and now there are more people looking for jobs in this economy."

Jerry Miller, owner of an antique store in Lebanon and a preservation advocate, said the recent commercial developments to the north hadn't affected the downtown, but "no one wanted another big empty building."

"The whole community hates to see a big box open, come in for a year and then close," he said.

Bear Creek Capital is the company that developed the Watson Crossing shopping center.

Matt Daniel of Bear Creek did not comment on possible future tenants for the location.

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