HAMILTON — It's the end of an era in the Bitterroot, as the holding company controlling the remnants of the once-powerful Kmart retail chain announced that the store in Hamilton will be closing in early March.
It's been a tenuous few years for the Kmart store in Hamilton, ever since the company that took over from the bankruptcy of Sears and Kmart began liquidating stores across the U.S. Now the waiting game here is over, with employees told the store will close permanently on March 6, 2022.
The Kmart in Hamilton is not only the last one in Montana, but also one of the last in the entire country. According to the most recent counts, there are only six stores across the U.S., and the Hamilton closure - which was announced to employees on Friday - leaves just five stores, with this one being the last in the West.
When the store in Grass Valley, California, shut down a few weeks ago, it was the last one on the West Coast, part of the gradual liquidation of what once was a formidable chain of 2,500 stores — a retailer that started in Detroit and eventually grew to a powerhouse retailer through the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.
But the rise of new challenges, like Walmart and Target, and the emergence of online retailers, created stiff competition and the merger with Sears over a decade ago didn't stop the bleeding.
News of the closure in Hamilton is sparking nostalgic reactions from Kmart fans across the Internet, who've been asking us for months when the Bitterroot store might close.
In fact, this store in particular is a fan favorite because it's the last one with the iconic "legacy" sign that was such a familiar sight to shoppers that grew up with "blue light specials."