Of those 15 Kmart stores left as of September 2021, it just so happens that two of them are located in Florida, those being the Miami/Kendall and Key West locations. As the number of remaining Kmart stores began to fizzle down into the 30s, 20s, and now teens, it made me want to take the trek to Miami to see Kmart at least one more time before all the remaining stores closed for good. In July 2021 I got my chance, and off to Kmart I went! This particular Kmart location, located in the Kendall neighborhood of Southwestern Miami, is about a three hour drive from where I live. For many people, a three hour drive to Kmart is pretty good these days, especially with how few locations are left (and that most of the remaining locations are clustered around New York City, with the two in Florida, one in Montana, and one in California rounding out the rest of the US mainland Kmart stores if I remember correctly). While nothing about Kmart's current state makes any sense to me, I believe most of the remaining stores have lasted as long as they did purely because they are the only major retail establishment around for miles, and generate some kind of decent income due to their isolation. That sentiment holds true for the Key West Kmart, as it's the only general merchandise retailer in Key West (and officially, the entirety of the Keys now, following the closure of the Kmarts in Key Largo and Marathon in early 2021). So the Key West Kmart has a captive audience in its favor (like most of the areas that still have a Kmart store remaining), however, I don't understand how this Miami location has made it into the 2020s. There's both a Walmart Supercenter and a Target within 2 miles of this Kmart, yet somehow Kmart is still here, so it's not like isolation has helped with this store's longevity. I do know that Miami was traditionally a strong market for Kmart in years past (as Miami-Dade County once had 7 Kmart stores in the mid-2010's - a nice cluster for the chain at that time, when most major metro areas were lucky to have a single Kmart left). Most likely this store's longevity is a fractured testament to Miami's once great love for Kmart, and for whatever reason that's kept this store going until now. However, I really don't have any better explanation to give, so won't question this store's reason for being any further. The Miami Kmart is still here, and may it stay here for as long as it wants to, as it provided me with the opportunity to see what one of Kmart's final few stores was like, as well as relive my memories of shopping at Kmart from years ago.
Opening on November 3, 1977, Kmart was the largest anchor of the new Kendale Lakes Mall, an open-air mall with Luria's serving as co-anchor at the opposite end of the complex. The Kendale Lakes Mall was the retail centerpiece to the new neighborhoods surrounding the Kendale Lakes Country Club development, in which the mall was built (and although pronounced the same, the country club chose to spell 'Kendall' as 'Kendale' - maybe the country club's spelling was supposed to look fancier?). Following the closure of the Luria's chain in 1997, the Kendale Lakes Mall was redeveloped into a big box power center, with the entirety of the open-air mall and the Luria's building coming down for the redevelopment. The Kmart building is the only original piece of the main mall building to remain in the present day, the Kmart building's design still matching that of the original mall's architectural motif. One of the plaza's outparcel buildings retained the original architectural motif as well, and interestingly, kept the design even more original than Kmart did!
As this store's life progressed, the building was expanded out the left side in the early 1990's to the size it is today (although that early 1990's expansion comprises the entirety of the salesfloor space that's now blocked off from public access, but we'll take more about that later in the post). Kmart upgraded and remodeled this store once again to the Big Kmart design in 1996, at which time the awning was modified and the interior rearranged. Kmart remodeled this store one last time around 2007 to the red/yellow/green wall decor, and that's what we'll see once we step inside.
The 2007-era remodel also brought the current logo to the store's facade, the only facade modification made at that time. The 2007 remodel was more of a paint and signage refresh than anything, as the inside still feels like your average 1970's built Kmart store.
Under the awning we go, the main entrance located straight ahead. In the distance the store's garden center can be seen, the garden center moved to the front of the building to accommodate the early 1990's expansion. In recent years, the garden center was decommissioned entirely, the selection of live plants for sale condensed onto a small table to the left of the main entrance.
So without further ado, let's step through those doors for a look at what a Kmart of the 2020's is like...
The Kendall Kmart is set up with the hardlines departments occupying the left half of the building, and softlines to the right upon entering. We're going to tour this store beginning with the hardlines side of the building, looping around into softlines as we get toward the end of the post.
To begin, here's a look across the main front aisle into the hardlines side of the store. Greeting cards, party supplies, health & beauty, and pantry can be found to my left, with the home departments to my right, after those few racks of clothes.
Spinning around 180 degrees from where I took the previous photo, here's a quick preview of the store's front end and some of the softlines departments. We'll see more of this area later, so let's press on into the hardlines side of the store:
Moving further into the left side of the building, the 2007-era department sign for health and beauty appears. If you're thinking this store is looking a bit dark and dreary only a few photos in, I'd just like to note I arrived here right as the manager was unlocking the front doors to open the store. For the first 10 minutes or so of my visit, only some of the overhead lights were on. It took a while before all the lights eventually kicked on, which brightened the place up a bit. That at least took care of the dark part of that description - as for the dreary part, well, that's just something ingrained into the ambiance of modern Kmart...