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Kmart to close on March 21

By By Paul Keane
Publisher
It's official – Kmart Corporation will be closing its Atmore store by March 21.
Mayor Howard Shell, the Atmore City Council and store manager Randall Shuttlesworth all confirmed that fact during Monday night's Council meeting. Shuttlesworth said the closing of the store will happen in less than 60 days.
"The liquidators will come in Thursday and start the process," he told the audience. "Our final day will be March 21, then the store will be officially closed.
"I'll stay with the company through that process, then leave Kmart. My family and I will be staying here because Atmore is our home."
Shell said every effort had been made to keep the store open, and that similar efforts will be made to fill the void left by the largest retailer in Atmore.
"There has been so much concern and work to keep this Kmart open," he said. "We had a number of people working on our behalf – making calls, putting together a strong petition effort through the Chamber of Commerce and from Congressman Jo Bonner – and we appreciate all of those efforts.
"I wanted to be able to tell everyone some good news at this meeting today, but we're not going to be able to keep our Kmart. Jay Betts, the owner of United Corners, called me this morning to tell me that his company and Kmart could not work out a new lease agreement. In the same breath, he also told me they were going to start immediately on getting a new retailer to lease that space."
Shell said he also received calls from Art Jones, a vice president with Kmart Corporation, who told the mayor there were many factors under the control of the bankruptcy court and not in the hands of the company. Shuttlesworth echoed similar sentiments.
"We were a somewhat profitable store," he said. "We were doing things well, but there are a lot of legal things that go on beyond the store level that we just aren't aware of."
Shuttlesworth added that the response from the community in trying to save the store has been tremendous.
"I appreciate all that the city and the community has done to help keep this store," he said. "It has truly been overwhelming, and the support has been outstanding. I just want to thank everyone."
Shuttlesworth said he does have some job offers – including one to remain with Kmart – and that he will be pursuing those interests in the near future. He emphasized that he and his family will remain in Atmore, "because it has really become our home."
Shell added that Kmart's departure will leave a large void, but that the challenges of overcoming the loss can be met.
"It's hard to look people in the eye and tell them they don't have a job anymore," Shell said in an emotional statement. "We've got a lot of good people here, and that is one of our biggest assets.
"We will be doing everything we can to fill this void. We've got a good town, a good market and good people who are willing to step up and do what they can to make our community stronger and better. This is a challenge, and we will meet this challenge and have success on down the road."