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South Point Kmart closing

SOUTH POINT — One of the first major retail developments along the U.S. 52 corridor in Lawrence County is losing its major tenant. The Kmart at South Point is set to close.

However, county leaders are optimistic the building won’t stay empty for long.

As of Monday the store was no longer accepting new layaways and current ones must be picked up by November.

Calls made to Kmart’s corporate office in Illinois were not returned by press time.

With the county in a significant budgetary crunch the discount store’s closing means a possible impact from the loss in sales tax revenue.

“It’s a shame they had to give it up,” South Point Mayor Bill Gaskin said. “When Sears went together, it would be a good thing and help both of them.”

In 2004 Kmart bought the Sears department store chain in an $11 billion deal, becoming at that time the nation’s third largest retailer.

Lawrence County Commissioner Les Boggs said he would not know the impact of the news until he saw the tax figures, but admitted the closing will have an effect.

The Kmart opened in the early 1970s after a local land developer bought up the acreage around Charley Creek and built the store, according to South Point Village Administrator Pat Leighty. Leighty was with the Lawrence County Health Department at that time.

“When they opened up that Kmart store, it did the biggest business for a 150-mile radius,” Leighty said.

The onetime discount leader now leases the South Point store from Ireland-Lawrence LTD, a Florida Limited Partnership, which owns the strip mall. While sales tax figures were not available, the partnership pays $47,168 in property tax each year for the entire strip mall.

“You will have a significant economic impact when you look to the county revenue and the number of jobs,” Dr. Bill Dingus, director of the Lawrence Economic Development Corp., said Tuesday morning.

However, over the past few months Dingus and the Ireland partnership have been working on getting a new tenant for the building.

“We are trying to work forward to have a new business in that facility, hopefully, within months” Dingus said. “They are working extremely hard to get another client. We are confident the building will have a major tenant in it.”