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Kmart locations are still open in New Jersey

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AVENEL, N.J. — On a busy stretch of Route 35 near Rahway, one of the nation’s last Kmart stores looks like a relic from the past. Its big red K is faded and cracked. Inside this most American of retail stores, popular for K Cafe luncheonettes and Bluelight Specials, a sign promotes 60% off clothing. A dining-room table was on clearance for $89, while Route 66 jeans went for $10.99 and pink ladies’ neck sweaters for $12.49.

But a spacious parking lot was mostly empty with a handful of bargain shoppers scurrying into the store over a couple of hours. Some came out empty-handed. A woman said her elderly mother walks the shopper-barren Kmart aisles for safe exercise. She was checking on her.

Another shopper, Grace Celauro, 69, said, “I came here out of boredom.” She bought two winter coats for her grandchildren. “I don’t know how they stay in business,” she said, scanning the lot.

» READ MORE: Tour one of the last Kmart stores in the U.S.

Kmart blazed to American retail glory beginning in the early 1960s, seeking to dominate the discount retail sector with discounted national brands — a first at the time. At its peak in the 1990s, Kmart operated about 2,400 stores and employed 350,000 in the United States and Canada. Its brands once included PayLess Drug Stores, the Borders bookstore chain, and Sports Authority.

Now with two Kmarts slated to close, that will leave just four stores open in the United States, Kmart death watchers say. One is here in Avenel, in Middlesex County, and a second in northern New Jersey, in Westwood. The others are on Long Island, N.Y., and in Miami. At one time or other, Kmart operated almost 40 stores in Philadelphia and its Pennsylvania and South Jersey suburbs. The last one closed in 2019.

“They were quite a happening in the 1960s and 1970s,” said Fred Hurvitz, retailing professor at Pennsylvania State University. “Kmart was growing like crazy.”

Shoppers would wait for Kmart employees to announce a “Bluelight Special” — or daily deals — in specific departments and rush to see what they were, adding thrills to the day’s experience. Hurvitz said that Kmart “did well for 20 or 25 years” and then Walmart, with its efficient supply chain and reputation for low prices, drove it under.

“It’s amazing to remember that [Kmart] started out the same year as Walmart and Target in 1962. Kmart had its day but wasn’t able to define its market as clearly as the other two discounters,” said Vicki Howard, author of From Main Street to Mall: The Rise and Fall of the American Department Store. Kmart didn’t have the best bargains or style, Howard said, and if there is nostalgia for Kmart, it speaks to the “current state of affairs in terms of the retail apocalypse.”

The Sears chain merged with Kmart more than 15 years ago under the hedge fund operator Eddie Lampert, who has turned their liquidation into a business plan. Both retailers filed for bankruptcy in 2018. Sears and Kmart stores, operating under the Transformco entity, are still controlled by Lampert and have closed en masse in recent years, leaving valuable real estate behind to be sold or redeveloped.

The last full-line Sears in Pennsylvania, in Willow Grove, is expected to close within weeks.

But even as Transformco shutters Kmart stores, the discount chain lives on in Reddit, YouTube, and Facebook posts with devout followers who are nostalgic or fascinated by Kmart’s demise. A vast trove of Kmart video lives on the internet.

Chris Fitzwater, a 37-year-old from Warren, Ohio, holds “just great memories” of visiting the local Kmart with his great-grandmother and grandmother. They ate at the K Cafe luncheonette. He bought Nintendo 64 games along with football jerseys and sports cards.

One day several years ago, Fitzwater decided to shoot video of the Kmart storefronts and interiors still open. He’d hop in his car and drive for hours to find them. He has posted videos on YouTube. “It was so much fun. When I started filming, there were Kmarts everywhere,” said Fitzwater, who works in a chemical factory. Sadly, the Kmart of Fitzwater’s childhood in Warren closed by the time he began to create his Kmart video archive.

Kmart fans also connect at the Sears Holding Kmart and Sears Fan Group Facebook page. On Feb. 11, Scotty Baker, 50, of Tacoma, Wash., posted Kmart’s Thanksgiving sales fliers for 2012 that advertised a 42-inch RCA Plasma television for $199 and a “buy one, get one free” deal for board games. Among his regular posts last week was “raw footage” video from late January of the last Kmart in Montana — which is slated to close.

Ben Schultz, 23, was too young to have experienced Kmart’s powerful hold on American retailing. Plus, he said, “my family was more of a Target family.” In his teen years, Schultz worked at a McDonald’s in a parking lot in front of a Kmart. “On my lunch break I would wander around there [the Kmart],” he said. “There weren’t many people in there.”

Now a graduate student in public history at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, Schultz has become an expert on Kmarts and the company, putting together a spreadsheet and a map of every Kmart — when it opened and when it closed, with the address and other information.

“Kmart absolutely reigned supreme over the retail-discount market,” he said. “Their focus was to be America’s discount store. They essentially wanted to have a monopoly over the industry and it seemed like it was within their reach.”

Kmart, Schultz said, was to be “so bland that nobody felt it was uninviting. It was a place that could be common to everyone.” A Kmart Corp. annual report showed the chain had revenue of about $37 billion in 1993, near the height of Kmart’s popularity.

But the discount chain’s blandness became a detriment, Schultz believes. “When they tried to change their image, they did not have an image,” he said. “When Walmart and Target came into the community, customers thought they were shopping with their kind of people.”

Kmart’s store locator on the chain’s website tells shoppers of open stores in each state. But it is often wrong. The web lists five Kmarts in New York: White Plains, Bridgehampton, Manhattan, and two in the Bronx. But the phones were disconnected or not in service at four. An employee answered the phone at the Bridgehampton store, far out on Long Island.

There was a Kmart listed in Marshall, Mich. No one answered the phone. Google showed it “permanently closed.”

Kmart has four stores in Florida, in Key West, Marathon, Key Largo, and Miami, the website says. Recent press reports say that Kmart will close Key West. An employee at the Kmart in Miami said that her store was the only one open in the state. The company did not respond to a request for the number of Kmarts still open in the United States.

Schultz believes there is a reason for the continued existence of the Kmarts in New Jersey and on Long Island. “New York has had a strong stance against Walmart, so that has helped [Kmart]. But they still have to compete with Target and Amazon,” Schultz said. “I have a hard time imagining them staying around much longer.”

The Kmart in Avenel is in a plaza with an LA Fitness, a Bury the Hatchet ax-throwing business, an indoor trampoline park, and a Subway.

Seagulls screeched in the parking lot.

Renee Motz, of Carteret, came out of the Avenel Kmart. She used to shop at other Kmarts, but they shuttered their doors, leaving this one. She doesn’t buy food here but likes bargains on blouses and other clothing. “I’m afraid it might close,” she said. “I hope not.”



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Avison Young, KBS complete renovation of 1000 Continental Drive

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Renovations at an award-winning Class A office building in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, are now completed, according to an announcement from the project management team at Morristown-based Avison Young and KBS.

The property, located at 1000 Continental Drive, is part of KBS’ client portfolio. Constructed in 2007, the 205,424-square-foot asset sits at the intersection of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and Interstate 76 in King of Prussia.

It was built with LEED Silver Certification and Wired Certified Gold by WiredScore, is also UL Healthy Building Verified for Indoor Air and Energy Star certified. Tenant amenities include a gourmet café, conference center, fitness center, tenant lounge and a private commuter shuttle to and from the Strafford Train Station. All common areas have been outfitted with Wi-Fi and television monitors, which are located throughout the first- and second-floor lobbies.

The major renovations at 1000 Continental include a conferencing center with casual gathering spaces to accommodate anything from smaller board meetings up to larger training requirements. In addition, all of the common areas received a refresh to modernize the public views, including the elevators, lobbies and common corridors. KBS plans to implement further improvements to 1000 Continental as part of a strategic multiyear improvement plan.

“As a company with 30-plus years of experience owning and operating top-tier office properties, KBS understands the advantages that a refreshed office environment can provide as it welcomes tenants back to the workplace,” Tracey Kasper, principal of project management for Avison Young, stated. “Avison Young was pleased to deliver for KBS the first round of renovations at 1000 Continental to help maintain the building’s status as a market-leading address.”

KBS said it is witnessing a major flight to quality as office employees return to working in person and saw it as the opportune time to invest in renovations.

The projects were led by Avison Young’s senior project manager, Alan Zambarano, with local support from John Colvin, project manager. Zambarano has been leading capital improvement and tenant projects for Avison Young and has a longstanding relationship with the KBS team.





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Rutgers Business School leader in urban entrepreneurship named Rutgers-Newark provost

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He’s an internationally known author, co-founder of the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development and a Rutgers Business School professor, and now Jeffrey Robinson has been named Rutgers University–Newark’s new provost and executive vice chancellor.

His accolades don’t stop there. A New Jersey native, Robinson was born in East Orange and raised in Parsippany. He holds five academic degrees, spanning engineering, urban studies and business. He completed a Bachelor of Arts in urban studies at Rutgers College and a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering at Rutgers School of Engineering, a Master of Science in civil engineering management from Georgia Institute of Technology as a GEM Fellow, and an M.Phil. and Ph.D. in management and organizations from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business.

“Jeff has earned a reputation as a thought leader, author, sought-after speaker and trainer working at the intersection of economic development, social problem solving, inclusive innovation and workforce diversity,’’ Rutgers–Newark Chancellor Nancy Cantor said in a statement. “We are thrilled to welcome him to his new role on our leadership team.’’

Robinson, who starts the job July 1, holds the Prudential Chair in Business and is professor of management and global business at Rutgers Business School. He joined Rutgers–Newark in 2008, where he has specialized in management and entrepreneurship.

“I am excited to contribute to the mission of Rutgers University–Newark as an anchor institution in the city and region,” Robinson said. “Specifically, I look forward to focusing on innovation and economic development along with faculty recruitment and retentions. I am particularly drawn to RU–Newark’s strengths in the arts, STEM and entrepreneurship.”

As academic director for the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, Robinson’s expansive, publicly engaged scholarship has created vitally important programs that cultivate and mentor entrepreneurs.

He has authored many articles and books in his areas of expertise, including the 2022 Harper Collins guide “Black Faces in High Places: 10 Strategic Actions for Black Professionals to Reach the Top and Stay There,” co-authored with Rutgers alumnus Randall Pinkett.

Robinson has extensive experience in major grant writing and management, including multimillion-dollar support from the National Science Foundation aimed at building and broadening inclusive pathways in STEM. He has also received funding from numerous federal, state and private agencies and organizations to cultivate entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds.

“Jeff’s work exemplifies Rutgers-Newark’s strategic commitment to social mobility, publicly-engaged scholarship and anchor institution collaboration as a major urban research university where cross-disciplinary collaboration is paramount and where we are profoundly committed to leveraging our strengths with partners locally, statewide, nationally and globally to move the needle on the most pressing challenges facing our communities and our world,” Cantor said.





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Cushman & Wakefield hires senior research manager to oversee the firm’s N.J. research operations

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John Obeid has been named senior research manager of Cushman & Wakefield and will oversee New Jersey’s research operations and will be responsible for managing and executing market research deliverables and analytics.

He will be based out of the firm’s East Rutherford office.

“John’s impressive tenure and expertise will be invaluable to our brokers and clients. He is a strong example of the talent we are actively recruiting for our growing operations in New Jersey,” Peter Bronsnick, managing principal of New Jersey, stated. “As we continue to add new talent to our team and recruit the industry’s best and brightest across all business and service lines, we are thrilled to have John overseeing our research operations. We are proud to be expanding our team with so many talented new hires as we continually strive to be the best workplace in New Jersey.”

Obeid has more than 15 years of experience in commercial real estate, overseeing and executing market research. Obeid specializes in maintaining market data, analyzing trends and providing insightful commentary around New Jersey’s office and industrial real estate market.

“Cushman & Wakefield has put together a world-class operation in New Jersey and I am honored to be joining such a successful team,” Obeid said. “I was drawn to the company’s diverse and extremely talented pool of professionals and can’t wait to work alongside them to provide the best possible services to our clients.”

Prior to joining Cushman & Wakefield, Obeid spent time at both Colliers and CBRE, overseeing a team of researchers and developing relationships with clients to provide them with market intelligence on current real estate conditions.





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