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Kari Lucin, Forum News Service, Published May 20 2013

Final customers find 99 percent off bargains as Jamestown Kmart closes

JAMESTOWN, N.D. - During the last hours of the Jamestown Kmart, prices fell to 99 percent as customers hunted over the few shelves that still contained makeup, clothing and miscellaneous odds and ends.

“I saved $446,” said Dawn Senger of Linton, N.D., as she left the store with a basket full of merchandise. “… we’ve always stopped here. It’s going to be sad.”

Her sentiments were echoed over and over again by comments written in a guestbook near the entrance of the store — “sorry to see you go,” “a loss to the community” and many variations on “thank you.”

In February, it was announced that the Jamestown Kmart would close May 19, due to “disappointing sales,” according to Howard Riefs, director of corporate public relations for Sears Holdings, which owns Kmart.

Since then, the store has been cutting prices further and further, and its employees have been emptying shelves and consolidating merchandise in fewer and fewer aisles.

“The customers are terrific,” said Joni Dalke, store manager. “The associates are the best, they have tried so hard to make a pleasant atmosphere for each other and for customers.”

As Kmart opened on Sunday, prices were set at 90 percent off, leading to a Black Friday-like vibe.

“People have been taking out cartload after cartload after cartload,” Dalke said.

Later, prices dropped to 95 percent and finished at 99 percent, as people bought items for literally a penny on the dollar.

Throughout the day, customers were polite, as always, Dalke said.

“I’ve had a lot of hugs today,” she said.

The store had never had any problems on Black Fridays either, she added.

And though many people were still bargain-hunting Sunday afternoon, the atmosphere seemed more solemn than usual.

“For the 32 years that I’ve been here, we’ve all become family, no matter who has come and gone,” said Diane Bjorland, one of Kmart’s department leads.

Bjorland plans to continue working at her other part-time job now that the Kmart is closed.

The process of closing the store hasn’t been an easy one.

“It’s a job that you have to do. It’s a process that has to be done,” Dalke said.

Many of the associates wanted to work Sunday, to be there at the end, to help finish the work.

And at the end of the day, Dalke did expect there would be tears.

“It’s a family,” she said. “We’ll stay together. We’ll support each other.”