TL;DR: It’s a Kmart, numbnuts…
History: According to a Times article this store opened in 1973 and closed 2/12/95; apparently not making the cut for their upcoming “Big Kmart” concept, and cutting 118 jobs in an already-depressed region. Sometime after, it was used as storage for “electronic waste” until around 2012-ish.
Explore: I found out about this place through friend, Brian Ulrich; who shot this place a couple of years ago when it was still an active e-waste dump. Apparently, from what I was told, it was then- run by a finicky character. By 2013, however, they took off with whatever they could scrap off a ton of copiers and left the back doors wide-open… convenient for us, considering our car was throwing a tantrum and wouldn’t release the key from the ignition, leading us to driving partway into the store – the idea being that at least if we get jacked they’d have a ball trying to GTFO.
I’ve long geeked-out on vintage retail, so I was happy to see there were a few “obvious-Kmart” features still around, namely the huge “P H A R M A C Y” signage in the corner and the smashed wood panels that once-walled the diner in the back of the store. Otherwise, all the shelving and fixtures were long-gone, save for a customer service kiosk up front, and layaway counter in back; and beyond a “bike sale” poster and stray mobile hanging in the auto center: there was little trace of the word “Kmart” anywhere to be found.
Another interesting thing was that the front windows had not been bricked-over; a move all Kmart stores made following a 1985 killing spree in nearby St. John, where a revenge-seeking gunman sprayed the front of a Kmart store, blowing out the windows and killing three – the store itself being an unintended target. This store also predated CCTV surveillance, so it was kind of neat finding the second-floor passageways that surrounded the sales floor in a U-shaped layout, with one-way mirrors every few feet or so to look over merchandise. The stockrooms in back were two-floors and had more copiers and crap tucked-away; who knows if the property owner ever made it back for them.
After a bit we headed for the roof in time for the engineers on a passing train behind the store to see us, so we bailed – taking a hefty stash of blank UPS labels with us (for….. art, and stuff). On the back of the store were some decent pieces by Amuse and Ceno, but I never got around to shooting them. The graff inside the store itself was minimal, surprisingly.
Epilogue: Not long afterward, the building – and what appears to be an ex-Chicken Unlimited that was in the parking lot – were both renovated into an 18-wheeler sales/service center called “Truck Life“.