NEW ULM - Braving light rain and cool temperatures, an elderly New Ulm resident spent the day outside Thursday, protesting the pending closure of New Ulm's Kmart across the street from the store with home-made signs.
Marge Hames, 74, of New Ulm, said she's been coming to the local Kmart for 34 years and she's developed good relationships with its employees. The New Ulm Kmart and the Monitcello Kmart were among 15 stores closures announced by Sears Holding in February to raise needed funds for the corporation. Hames became frustrated by the closure. She said it particularly bothered her that the closure came from corporate ownership, regardless of whether the store was making a profit.
"Kmart may have been a [chain store], but I always felt it came up like a local store. I don't like that the ownership doesn't care what the store means to a town," said Hames.
Armed just with two signs that read "Keep Kmart Open" and "These 'associates' are friends, neighbors and family," Hames has made a serious commitment to protesting the closure. She plans to stand across the street from the store, because company policy prohibits her from protesting in the parking lot, from approximately 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day until the store closes. She said she wants Sears Holding to reconsider the closures, but she doubts her protest will sway its judgment. Instead, she will be showing solidarity with the New Ulm Kmart's approximately 50 employees. She said that she has formed strong bonds with many of them over the years.
"I've known and talked to these people [working at Kmart] for years," said Hames, "I'll at least be able to say, [to the people that worked there], that I did something to try to help them keep their jobs."
She said she thinks the closure was triggered by the recession, but she believes Sears Holding should tighten its belt like she has done in recent years. She said she believes the economy is on the verge of bouncing back, so she believes the closure will soon be unnecessary.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Marge Hames, 74, of New Ulm, braved light rain and cool temperatures on Thursday to protest the pending closure of New Ulm’s Kmart. She said she plans to return each day to protest until the store closes.
Hames' protest is an expression of sentiment expressed by many New Ulm residents who were dismayed or disappointed when the closure was announced.
The New Ulm Kmart is anticipated to close within the next six months.
(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)