CONNEAUT, Ohio - Kmart shoppers in Conneaut are making plenty of noise. They want their Kmart location of 32 years to stay open.
Just weeks ago Kmart announced it will be closing its Conneaut store at Gateway Plaza this June due to severe roof leaks at its leased location.
Kmart reports it is being forced to close because the plaza owner has been unable to find the $400,000 in funding to make the needed roof repairs.
Conneaut residents like Christine Jarvi feel they're unwitting victims, caught in the middle of a financial issue.
"They need to change their mind," said Jarvi. "I mean this is the only thing we got in Conneaut left."
"You can buy clothes, dog food, cat food. We buy a lot of stuff here. It's not just were running just to buy a little thing — we spend a lot of money here to try to keep it going."
Conneaut city leaders report the roof leak was caused by heavy ice and snow this past winter, but residents like Jodee Simon claim the roof has been an ongoing problem that should have been solved last year.
If the Conneaut Kmart closes it will mean the loss of 43 jobs.
"This is one of the few places that our teenagers from high school can go and still get a job, and get them into the work force," said Simon. "There was a problem with this roof last summer, it wasn't addressed. I don't know why the owners didn't address it."
Conneaut City Councilman Douglas Hedrick is hoping the owner of the building will be able to push through an insurance claim for roof repairs in time to get Kmart to reconsider its decision.
"At the end of the day it's up to them to work it out," explained Hedrick. "But whatever city council can do to help aid that process, we are more than willing to do that."
NewsChannel5's 5 On Your Side Troubleshooter unit reached out to the building owner and Kmart headquarters in search of a solution.
Kmart responded immediately, and promised that it is still currently looking into possibilities that a location can be kept in Conneaut.
Kmart issued the following statement in response to our story:
We are currently reviewing our alternatives at this time. We can’t speculate as to what the landlord is willing and/or capable of doing but it was not our desire to close this store.
The Kmart store in Conneaut suffered roof failure. The Conneaut Fire Department marshal requires that the affected portion of the roof is properly repaired in order for the entire store to remain open. Unfortunately, the landlord refuses to repair the roof to the satisfaction of local officials.
As such, the store will operate in a limited amount of space until our inventory is depleted, and then close to the public in early June. The store has 43 employees. Those associates that are eligible will receive severance and have the opportunity to apply for open positions at area Sears or Kmart stores. Most of the associates are part time/hourly.
NewsChannel5 also contacted David Kinzie, Gateway property manager for Emster Retail Properties, who explained the owner of the plaza would like to keep the Conneaut Kmart open, but finding the money for roof repairs is the problem.
He talked more about the problem to the Star Beacon:
“The landlord absolutely regrets the store has to be closed and the subsequent (losses) that everyone involved are going to endure,” David Kinzie, Gateway property manager for Emster Retail Properties, said in an email message.
On Monday, Kinzie expanded on his comments, saying harsh weather created ice that caused heavy damage.
“The roof went crazy,” he said. “It destroyed the roof. Up until then it was fine."
Kinzie is hoping the owners insurance company will cover the roof repair and potentially save the plaza.
NewsChannel5 will continue to follow up on this developing story.
Meanwhile, Conneaut residents are hoping a solution will be found to save the Kmart they've patronized for more than three decades.
"I thought we were supposed to be trying to build America back up, and we're supposed to help one another," said Simon. "We have rich families owning other properties, aren't they responsible for taking care of this, and helping these municipalities."
"It's going to be sad to see it go, I think they should keep it open,' said Jarvi. "It's going to hurt Conneaut a lot."
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