Walla Walla Kmart

Attention, Kmart shoppers: The discount department store will close this summer after nearly 45 years of service on Isaacs Avenue.

Employees say the store’s last day open to the public is July 7. The building will be occupied another week after that.

Beyond that, questions about the beleaguered retailer’s closure were referred to Sears Holding’s media relations branch, which neither answered the telephone nor returned emails for comment Wednesday and this morning.

Word of the closure broke on social media as customers and people connected to store associates posted through threads on community accounts.

Signs posted on the front of the store simultaneously tell customers that layaway services are not available with the pending closure while also advertising for employment through the transition.

Given the financial tumult with Kmart and Sears locations in the midst of bankruptcy filings and the purchase of a limited number of stores by former Sears Holdings CEO and Chairman Eddie Lampert, the closure is not a surprise, Walla Walla city officials say.

It is, however, a blow to the Eastgate retail scene and to the community that’s also losing its Shopko this month.

“The outlook for Kmart was not bright,” Deputy City Manager Byron Olson said Wednesday. “I was a little amazed that that site hadn’t been on their previous closure lists, given the location and the population in Walla Walla.”

Nevertheless it will be a loss, Olson said.

“It’s a good employer, and it’s provided access for shopping for residents in a convenient location,” he said.

The change comes on the heels of retail development victory for Walla Walla with the opening last year of Walla Walla Town Center and the introduction of numerous national retailers to the landscape. That came more than a decade after the closure of the community’s Blue Mountain Mall and then the failed redevelopment of the site.

The loss of Shopko and Kmart within just a couple of months of each other reduces choices for shoppers wanting to visit large local disount retailers.

It also compounds the losses along Isaacs Avenue, after the sale and relocation of Nixon’s Marine and the retirement of Olsen Brothers Mufflers.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at 509-526-8321, vickihillhouse@wwub.com or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/VickiHillhouse.

Vicki covers business and economic development, including tourism, the Port of Walla Walla and the Strictly Business column, as well as features. She has been reporting for the Union-Bulletin since late 2001.