Residents want to keep New Smyrna Beach Kmart

NEW SMYRNA BEACH — When she collected 150 signatures on the first day of a petition drive to keep the State Road 44 Kmart open, Ellen Weller thought she had accomplished a lot.

She had no idea the grassroots effort she helped start would eventually garner more than 6,100 names.

“I keep thinking it’s going to start dwindling down, but it hasn’t,” she said. She also gained support from the city with a resolution and the mayor’s promise to get in touch with Kmart officials.

Sears Holding Corp., parent company of Sears and Kmart, announced Dec.29 it was closing more than 100 stores nationwide. The New Smyrna Beach location is one of three — along with Sears Essentials in DeLand and Kmart in Orange City — slated to be shuttered in Volusia County. According to a letter sent to the City Clerk’s office, the last day of a liquidation sale for the S.R. 44 store will be April 10.

Since the announcement, Weller has been faithfully stationed in front of Kmart to collect signatures in hopes of changing the store’s seemingly already-decided fate.

Nancy Sinicki, an Edgewater resident and Kmart regular, added her name to the list of boosters Friday afternoon before she began shopping.

“I found out about a week ago,” she said of the store’s impending closing. “And when I did, I was furious.”

A rally is also being planned in front of the Kmart today. Wayne Knicker, who is organizing the event, is hopeful many will show up despite chilly temperatures in the forecast. He plans to be at the store from opening to closing.

Organizers are asking that those who turn out for the event wear red as a sign of solidarity.

“I’m fairly confident that we’re going to get their attention and they’re going to reconsider their choice,” Knicker said.

Kmart’s New Smyrna Beach manager referred questions to the corporate office, and a spokesperson with Sears Holding Corp. could not be reached for comment Friday.

Tony Otte, New Smyrna Beach’s economic development director, said the popular opinion in the community is that the store has picked up many more customers since the Walmart in the NSB Regional Shopping Center moved west of Interstate 95.

“It would seem odd timing, if that, in fact, was the case,” Otte said of the decision to close the Kmart.

The City Commission on Tuesday voted unanimously to send a resolution urging Kmart to keep the store open. Mayor Adam Barringer has pledged to try to contact Kmart officials to plead the city’s case.

Posted on: 16 Jan, 2012