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Glen Oaks residents fear Kmart’s doors may close

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Kmart officials might be denying that they have made any decisions about which of their 2,114 stores will closed as part of the company’s bankruptcy proceedings, but the shelves in the Glen Oaks store tell a different story.

Once filled with Martha Stewart’s towels, rugs and sheets, the shelves this week had only a smattering left of the products, some of the store’s biggest sellers. Only a few large Rubbermaid containers, once piled high and almost touching the ceiling, sat on the barren shelves. DVD movies were non-existent and the usual selection of 20 cameras was down to just two.

“Every time we have a store here it closes,” said Cathy Faulkner of Glen Oaks. “It is normally always crowded — I don’t know why it does not do well. I think it is really important that we have a store here.”

The Detroit Free Press reported last week that the Glen Oaks Kmart was one of the 291 stores the retail chain planned to close as part of its restructuring effort under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code.

Mays was the first store to make a go at it as the anchor in the small Glen Oaks Mall at 258-01 Union Turnpike, followed by a Caldor and now Kmart.

Faulkner blamed the problems at the Kmart on its staff, describing employees as being rude and not very helpful. But, she said, the community “definitely needs the store.”

Kmart has two other stores in the borough: 61-11 188th St. in Fresh Meadows and 66-26 Metropolitan Ave. in Maspeth.

The Troy, Mich.-based retailer announced Jan. 22 it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from its creditors and secured a $2 billion financing package to reorganize. For the time being, the chain’s 2,114 stores throughout the United States will remain open for business and the company hopes to emerge from Chapter 11 by 2003.

Kmart’s public relations department was not answering the phone this week, but an answering machine message informed callers that no announcement had been made about individual store closures.

Under a Chapter 11 filing, the clock stops on all the company’s past debt, giving it breathing room to restructure as long as it meets its current debts. The company must also work out a plan to repay creditors at least part of the debts owed.

The company said it decided to file for bankruptcy for a number of reasons, including lower-than-expected fourth-quarter results, fierce competition and the recession.

Shameeza Khan, who lives in Richmond Hill but works up the block from the Glen Oaks Kmart, said she does not understand why the big stores in the mall keep closing.

“I think it is a great place,” she said. “It is the only store that has everything. Everyone comes here because of the prices, which are what they are supposed to be.”

Carol, who lives in Bellerose and did not want to give her last name, said it is “pathetic” that Kmart may be shuttering the Glen Oaks location, but she contended the store had deteriorated since it opened.

Bellerose resident Elizabeth Finnery said she definitely prefers to have Kmart in the area because once it closes the nearest shopping center is Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City, L.I.

“It is a quick stop to get whatever you need,” she said. “It is a shame because there is nothing else close that has everything — all the things for a house.”

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

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