[For a little background on this place, read the Wikipedia article on Kmart or google “prototype kmart” for the first few sentences of one of the old articles from Detroit newspapers when it opened in ’02.]
I read about the White Lake Kmart in the Freep, years before we moved to the area, and actually got lost on two separate occasions stopping in to see it on the way home from support clients in Detroit’s northern suburbs. After we moved to Oakland county, I was delighted to discover that it was not that far from our place.
I started shopping here because… well, I’ve always had a soft spot for Kmart.
I guess that’s because I grew up going to Kmart stores all over downriver, and even a couple of the locations of their predecessor, S.S. Kresge & Co. They were based in the area. Walmart hadn’t become Walmart yet. Heck, there were a small handful of Meijer stores in the area and they closed at, like, 11pm.
Although “societal mores” made it difficult to wear the clothes to middle school, the Toy department was epic. So was the electronics area, with its Nintendo Entertainment System, right there on the counter, that you could totally play. I bought my first hip-hop album at Kmart. It was “He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper” by Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. [My second one was “Raising Hell” by Run-DMC. Had to go to Discount Records for that — you know, because of the language.]
When we started to consider moving back to the Ann Arbor area, I realized that I was going to need to document this store to show it to my friends. I had occasionally mentioned it in conversation — “oh yeah, I’m on my way home from the PROTOTYPE KMART near my house,” to — to what? Impress them? Make them think I lived in Tomorrowland, only with pontoon boats? When pressed I would invariably describe it as “actually, quite like a Target, only green,” but I knew that didn’t really do it justice.
My other reason is that the retail world has changed so much since this store was developed. Kmart has entered and emerged from bankruptcy and is now headquartered with its parent company in Illinois, far away from Troy — so this store will probably not get another makeover the one it got, in its time. Most of the green accents in temporary signage have been replaced with the usual Kmart red, and this will probably continue until it is remodeled.
I spend far too much casual time on blogs like Labelscar and Malls of America, looking for pictures of the old days. I didn’t grow up hanging out at the mall, exactly, but at the same time I have very vivid memories of them. It is why, when we found out the child was coming, I told my wife it would always have a camera. She has a nearly indestructible camera, and as much room as she needs to store her photographs. Pictures are memories. Mundane things are still memories. Want proof? Look at all the people mourning Livonia Mall.
I hope this store doesn’t get knocked down to accomodate a Home Depot, or anything else, in my lifetime. But if that should happen, I think of this small set as a few handfuls of earth, ready to help fill the memory hole.
One thing I’ve never worked out was, how the hell did the stuck-up kids knew what discount store your clothes had come from, anyway, if they spent all their time at Jacobson’s?