Growing up as a child of the 80’s and an avid Halloween nut, certain stores were crucial to fulfilling the needs of the season. Most have gone the way of the Dodo bird but a few still are hanging in there. Kmart is one of the elders who is hanging on but in the world of Amazon and other high commodity retail giants, the writing is on the wall. But like a champion of old, it ain’t going down without a fight.
I was listening to one of The Purple Stuff’s minisodes the other day (this is one of those amazing podcasts that you need to download right now) and they brought up Kmart. The feels you get knowing there is still a chain around where you can purchase your outside Halloween lights for the house you own and 35 years prior was the same place your Mom bought the He-Man mask and smock costume for your fifth Halloween. It makes me a little teary knowing you can still go back. In fact, many friends may have bought their own kids their first Halloween costumes there just to continue the tradition. I bought my dogs spooky sweaters there. Best I can do right now.
I am one of the few who has a surviving Kmart in the area. Every year around this time I pop in to see what is going on and up until this year it has not been a disappointment. They had aisles of Halloween costumes, decorations and even their candy displays were something to compare and contrast with less seasonally-friendly retail outlets. The best part of everything was the random approach Kmart had to selling Halloween themed products. Sure they had a set area but sprinkled around the store would be random Halloween goodness and it would be in the most odd parts of the store. I will never forget the joy I felt from walking down the crockpot/blender aisle only to find a display for Ghoul-Aid Jammers. The old ladies had to make quick with their steps when I started doing pelvic thrusts and screaming “LET’S DO THE TIME WARP AGAIN!”.
This year, however, the old girl looks a bit slow and worn down. I know it’s still early in the season but it’s not for the lack of Halloween items (although they are slow on the get-go), it just feels like Kmart has lost it’s retail will to live. Maybe it’s the meth-head lady in the parking lot or the fact that you feel like you just beat the boss in a game and the place is starting to collapse with episodic tremors and falling ceiling tiles, but the Kmart of yore is not here today. You have to come to accept these stores we grew up with cannot be here forever. Video killed the radio star and the internet finished off everything else. I envision us Halloween bloggers surfing the WWW for whats knew in 2020. God I hope I am wrong.
I cruised around the Halloween aisle taking joy that it is still next to the Lawn and Garden department. The fluorescent lighting flickered a bit or at least that’s what my memory recalls. The floors were dull and scuffed and that weird Kmart smell was there but it hung a bit faint. I bought some assorted Brach’s Fall mix because that’s what you are supposed to do this time of the year. The cashier rung me up and asked if I had a Kmart rewards card and I responded, “why?”. She looked on with a bit of annoyance. She didn’t know where I was coming from and I didn’t have the breath to explain. She printed out my six separate receipts, bagged the candy and I left Kmart, perhaps for the final time.
It’s a hell of a thing getting older and what means a whole lot and what does not. This always did. And for that and the little things, I am thankful.
Kmart, you are the Radio Star of Halloween.