Kmart out, Cash Wise in: Big-box store to be replaced by supermarket after 36 years in mall

A customer walks into Kmart in the Prairie Hills Mall on Tuesday afternoon. The store plans to close in early December after 36 years in the mall.

The first big-box store in Dickinson is closing its doors at the end of the year and a new supermarket is taking its place.

Representatives for Kmart and the Prairie Hills Mall announced Tuesday that the store will close in early December after 36 years. About an hour later, Coburn’s Inc., owner of Cash Wise Foods and Cash Wise Liquors announced that it plans to move into the space and open the supermarket and liquor store by spring 2015.

“We’ve been working to find the right opportunity to come to Dickinson for some time now and I’m glad everything has come together to allow us to open in the spring,” Chris Coburn, Coburn’s president and CEO, said in a news release.

Prairie Hills Mall owners GPCME LLC purchased Kmart’s lease and are entering into a new lease agreement with Coburn’s, mall manager Peggy O’Brien said.

“That has been a good project,” O’Brien said. “It’s been a long project. We worked very closely with (Coburn’s) and with Kmart, and we’re excited that they’re landing here.”

Cash Wise Foods plans to be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Kmart was the first store in the mall when it opened in November 1978, O’Brien said. The Kmart building was constructed first and the mall was attached not long after.

Kmart will begin a liquidation sale on Sunday, according to an email from Sears Holding Corp.’s media relations.

“They were the first tenant and they were the anchor that started it all in the mall,” O’Brien said. “I was here when the mall opened. I worked in one of the new stores. This is kind of bittersweet.”

It has been an anchor store ever since but has just 41 employees, many of whom are part-time or hourly workers, according to Howard Riefs, director of corporate communications for Sears Holdings.

Kmart, like many Dickinson businesses, has had trouble recruiting and retaining employees, O’Brien said. On Tuesday afternoon, the store still had a banner at its entrance advertising it was hiring employees at a starting wage of $14 per hour.

“It’s been very tough for them,” O’Brien said. “They’ve had staffing issues. Honestly, I don’t know who hasn’t that’s not energy related.”

Riefs said Kmart employees are eligible to receive severance pay and have the opportunity to apply for open positions at other Kmart or Sears stores. Coburn’s said in its release that it plans to actively recruit Kmart employees to fill the expected 120-plus positions it needs to open the store.

O’Brien said enclosed malls throughout the country have experienced success by providing space to grocery stores, which tends to help other mall tenants.

“They’ve given us, in their opinion, that this will be one of their busiest stores in the company,” O’Brien said.

Coburn’s has been expanding into the Bakken Oil Patch since 2012 when it entered into a partnership with Williston-based JK Foods. It opened Cash Wise locations in Watford City and Minot in 2013, and in Stanley and Tioga in 2014.

Mall making moves

Along with the addition of Cash Wise, the mall is in the process of making more moves that should be finished by the end of the year, O’Brien said.

The construction of a new building in the east parking lot will likely be done by the end of 2014, O’Brien said, adding she hopes to announce its planned occupants by the end of the week.

General Nutrition Center, commonly known as GNC, is relocating from its long-time position near JCPenney and Odyssey Theatres Cine 3 to an open larger space on the north end of the mall across from Tradehome Shoes and Pretzelmaker.

GNC’s move will open up a large space on the north end.

“We have some really neat plans,” O’Brien said. “Everything we’ve done so far, you have to admit, it’s been a plus.”

Author: Dustin Monke

Former newspaper editor. Now I market the best baked goods and donuts in America. But every once in a while, I write a cool story too.

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