Fifty years after opening its first store in Lancaster County, only one Kmart will remain after the West Hempfield Township store closes this summer.
The store at 3975 Columbia Ave., which opened in 1992, will likely close by the end of August, according to a store employee. A manager on Monday confirmed the store is “definitely closing,” but said he couldn’t say when. He deferred further questions to Kmart’s parent company, Sears Holdings, which did not respond to a request for comment.
The store’s property is owned by Seritage Growth Properties, which earlier this month announced it had reached an agreement to terminate leases at the 17 properties where it rents to Kmart and Sears — including the West Hempfield store — if the stores close by the end of September.
When the store just off the Prospect Road exit of Route 30 closes, it will leave the Willow Street Kmart as the only store in Lancaster County for the once-dominant big-box retailer, which became famous for its in-store “blue light specials,” but has struggled in recent years from increased competition and the rise of online shopping.
Kmart in Lancaster County
Kmart opened its first county store on Fruitville Pike in Manheim Township in 1970 (although the company had operated stores in Lancaster Shopping Center and downtown Lancaster under its prior name, S.S. Kresge.)
Then came stores in East Lampeter Township in 1977, Ephrata Borough in 1982, and three in 1992 in Willow Street, West Hempfield and Elizabethtown.
All six survived the company's bankruptcy filing in 2002 and the closing then of some 600 stores.
In 2005, Kmart merged with Sears under the corporate umbrella of Sears Holding Co. believing that the combination would enable the company to fend off competition from fast-growing discounters such as Walmart and Target. But the new firm continued to struggle in a changing retail landscape, prompting more store closings and then a bankruptcy filing in 2018, which touched off another wave of store closures.
The first Sears Holdings store to fall here was the East Lampeter Kmart, which went dark in May 2015. The Manheim Township store closed in March 2017.