Article written by Jeremy Farley
I spent a countless number of hours in my teenage years working as a stockman and cashier at the Wytheville Kmart store. It was in this building that I received my first paycheck and posed for far too many Olan Mills photos alongside my baby sister at the insistence of my mother.
For many decades, Kmart had been a staple for the eastern section of Wytheville, once acting as the anchor for storefronts ranging from jewelry retailers to cellular stores and insurance agencies; however, as the giant retailer lost its footing in national markets, so too did its local influence and draw begin to wane.
Last year, when the inevitable news broke that the Wytheville Kmart store would soon be shuttering, many local economic development officials quietly feared the closure would signal additional struggles for the entire eastern portion of town.
Fortunately, all of these fears have been put to rest, as salvation for the community has come in the form of one of the nation’s fastest growing retail chains, Rural King.
The company purchased the entire Kmart shopping center in cash and their soon coming arrival to the massive shopping building has offered surrounding businesses new hope for the future.
Gone is the giant red K that once adorned the side of the building and in its place is the title, “Rural King”.
Make no mistake about it, this building is soon to become a country boy’s paradise.
Set for a soft opening on Feb. 17, 2018, workers are feverishly working to convert the sales floor that had for decades served as Kmart into Rural King.
Right now, most everything, from the signature popcorn maker — all visitors to the store are treated to complimentary popcorn and coffee — to the checkout registers are still sitting in boxes, but progress is quickly being made as the retail store is quietly morphing just above East Main Street in Wytheville.
The area that had been Kmart’s health & beauty section will become the pet food section. The automotive section will remain the same, while the Kmart electronics department will now be the place where guns, ammunition and vaults are sold.
The area around Kmart’s fitting rooms, where clothing was once sold, will now be the place where tools are sold, including Stihl — Rural King will be an officially licensed Stihl dealer.
The children’s and infants clothing department of Kmart will become Rural King’s clothing area, where overalls, rugged wear and casual clothes are sold.
In addition to selling clothing, handing out free popcorn and being a gun store, Rural King will also be entering a market that already has many participants in Wythe County — the sale of tractors. Company leaders are quick to note that these sales will not be limited to lawn tractors and mowers, but will also include Rural King’s own brand of farm tractors, one of only 15 Rural King locations in the nation to sell tractors.
Though the store’s soft opening is set for February 17, 2018, a grand opening is scheduled for March 1, 2018. Store hours will be from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., with extended hours during the spring and summer, and Rural Kings are closed only on Christmas.
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