|The K-Mart corporation had its beginnings as a discount off-shoot of Detroit-based S.S. Kresge Company. For many years, the original K-Mart logo above was seconded by the Kresge logo to the left.||As of mid-September 2016, with the closing of the K-Mart store at 21111 Van Born Road, the 54-year history of the chain as a Downriver institution has come to a close. Remembered by many in earlier years for their Blue Light Specials, as well as their cafeterias and Icee drink kiosks, the chain has been condensing and reducing locations & costs since taken over by Sears Holdings. Here is a look at the eight K-Mart locations which dotted the Downriver landscape in those 54 years.|
Flat Rock Location: Telegraph and Vreeland Roads
Flat Rock’s K-Mart location in the present day.
Most likely constructed in the early 1970s, this K-Mart would be the only Downriver location to be an anchor of a plaza (although the sign at the original K-Mart location in Southgate proclaimed it as a “plaza,” it did not have multiple storefronts), as the Flat Rock location would also have a 1970s-era Kroger supermarket attached, along with room for three other stores. The store was likely vacated around 1998 or 1999, with the Kroger storefront shutting a few years later when the chain relocated to Telegraph and West Road. This location has been the subject of numerous, though speculative, refurbishment plans over the years, including the initial site for a proposed Meijer store, which would end up locating on a new stretch of Vreeland Road west of Telegraph.
As of 2019, the center is now anchored by Tractor Supply Wholesaler.
Lincoln Park Location: Dix-Toledo and Emmons
The future site of the Lincoln Park K-Mart as it appeared in the late 1980s; it would be located behind the billboard shown.
In an rebranding effort which began in 1991, Super K-Mart stores began to pop up beginning with a location in Medina, Ohio, combining a grocery store with general merchandise. This was not their first time trying this venture: in the 1960s many K-Mart locations operated small markets called K-Mart Foods, which faded by the end of that decade. This would be their first foray into the superstore concept, originally pioneered by Meijer. The stores would be much bigger and have a different, sleeker look about them. Lincoln Park would be chosen for the first of these Super K-Mart stores.
The eventual spot at Dix Highway at Emmons would require modifications to the land on which it sat, namely by removing at least three of the radio towers from the group at the location (today the remaining towers broadcast WLQV-AM 1500) before construction could begin. The Lincoln Park store opened for business in 1994 and did reasonably well, but may have been the victim of market saturation. It would close by 2003 and – ironically enough – be replaced by a Meijer store, which continues in business today and has become one of their blue-ribbon stores in the state of Michigan.
Melvindale Location: Outer Drive west of I-75 expressway
Faith Christian Academy currently occupies the former K-Mart site on Outer Drive in Melvindale. The church moved from a previous location at Outer Drive and Dix in 2007.
This K-Mart was thought to be constructed in the late 1960s and was located just west of the new Seaway (I-75) freeway, at the corner of Outer Drive and Rialto Street. It, along with the future Woodhaven location, would house a small Wrigley supermarket on the building’s east end. When Wrigley folded by 1977, this eastern space sat largely un-utilized.
This K-Mart was closed on the same day as its sister store in Southgate (January 10, 1995) as the first Super K-Mart location opened a month prior in Lincoln Park. The Melvindale location would stand vacant for several years before serving a charitable purpose: it would house the local St. Vincent DePaul chapter on a temporary basis while recovering from a costly fire at its original Fort Street location. Upon completion of a new building, St. Vincent would move on.
Finally in January 2007, Faith Christian Academy took over the building, where they remain to this day. As can be seen on the photo to the right, the exterior was completely modernized for their purposes. It was the church’s third location since its 1937 formation and, as their website points out, both relocations have been no more than two blocks apart on Outer Drive.
Southgate Location #1: 13311 Eureka Road
Construction proceeds on Downriver’s first K-Mart location in the summer of 1962. Land and fill taken from excavation would be dumped behind the new building, resulting in the famed (to kids) K-Mart Hills.
The grand opening of the original K-Mart in November, 1962.
The first Downriver K-Mart (#4021) at 13311 Eureka Road opened for business at 10 AM on November 26, 1962. The building was 131,767 square feet, and included a K-Mart Food branch on the west side of the building. It was one of the few K-Mart locations to contain a mezzanine in the back, but the only location in the chain’s history to carry a full-sized furniture department. The initial store manager was John E. Balauger. After K-Mart Food dissolved its operations in the late 1960s, the west storefront would be replaced by a Farmer Jack supermarket by the early 1970s. It would remain there until the late 1980s, when its final Southgate location (out of three total) would be built next to Service Merchandise at the Southgate Shopping Center. This K-Mart survived at this location until closing on January 10, 1995, following a store-wide, 75% off clearance sale. Its successor superstore would be opened within the city limits shortly; see entry below.
Southgate Location #2: 16705 Fort Street
Southgate Super K-Mart in the midst of its 2014 liquidation.
After having been mothballed for 13 years, the old E.J. Korvette complex at Fort and Pennsylvania Roads had finally been razed in 1993. Two years later, the successor to the Eureka Road location was opened to the public.
The location, the second Super K-Mart location since the chain’s specific re-branding, boasted one of the most modern climate control systems in any Downriver building recently constructed.
The store would stay open nearly twenty years, until company contraction as well as competition from the Meijer store across the street would force its 2014 closure. In September 2016, the city of Southgate announced this location would be redeveloped into a new Kroger store replacing – ironically enough – the current Kroger facility on Eureka Road formerly occupied by K-Mart. This new location is now ranked (2019) as the largest Kroger store in the state.
Taylor Location #1: Telegraph and Goddard Roads
Of the eight K-Mart stores Downriver, this location is perhaps the least known and most difficult to remember. Judging by the style of the building, it may have been constructed around the time the Woodhaven store was built (early 1970s). Vacated by the mid-1990s as conditions in the company began to change, it would be torn down by 2000 to make room for the current tenant, Home Depot.
Taylor Location #2: 20111 Van Born Road
The final K-Mart location, in operation from 1964-2016. As of 2019, only one K-Mart remains in Wayne County: the Belleville location.
Perhaps symbolic, a lone washer & dryer set, adorned with flowers, sits as the centerpiece of the now-vacated electronics department in the store’s waning days.
|The cashier area in the closing days of the Taylor store.|
With the closure of the Southgate superstore, the K-Mart on the northern boundary of Taylor served as Downriver’s final K-Mart location until the announcement of its closure in May 2016. Originally planned for a November shutter, it would eventually close two months early.
This would be the second K-Mart building constructed Downriver, opening around 1964; therefore, it has lasted the longest of the eight K-Mart locations in one space. It would also be the last on the list to undergo significant renovation and modernization, several years after other stores in the chain refreshed their image.
At one time, it is thought this location also contained a small grocery store to one side (perhaps another K-Mart Foods).
Woodhaven location: Allen and West Roads
Ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Woodhaven K-Mart, March 1971.
Doorbusters ad from the Detroit News advertising Opening Day deals in Woodhaven. This poster was located in the administrative offices.
|The Woodhaven K-Mart holds its closeout sale in the summer of 2013. The property underwent major redevelopment starting in 2015.|
Woodhaven’s population upon obtaining city status was perhaps less than 3,000. By the end of the decade, with the Socony-Mobil refinery and Woodhaven Stamping Plant in full operations, and with neighborhoods under development on the city’s west end, the call came for a K-Mart to be located at Allen and West Roads.
Constructed in 1970 for a March 1971 opening, this would be the largest overall structure the company had built up to that point. As with the Melvindale location, this K-Mart had a small Wrigley supermarket attached at the east end of the building. When Wrigley folded by 1977, instead of sub-letting that portion of the building, the dividing wall was simply knocked down to provide additional selling space. This K-Mart would be the only Downriver location to have its own lumber department, located at the back of the building and identified by an orange-tiled floor leading to it.
For nineteen years, Woodhaven K-Mart faced no sizeable competition. This would change with the opening of the Meijer store across Allen Road in 1990. The subsequent dismantling of the Socony-Mobil refinery released a considerable amount of space, which facilitated the construction of Wal-Mart further down Allen Road. Target would open for business across from K-Mart sometime later. Now squeezed for business, the writing was on the wall for this location, which had their closeout sale in the summer of 2013 before closing.
The entire parcel, including outbuildings, began complete redesign and reconstruction work in late 2014, with work evolving in earnest into 2019, despite claims the intersection was already saturated with business traffic.