Monday, June 12, 2017

6.12.17 Bee-otch of the Day: Eddie Lampert

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Name: Eddie Lampert
Age: 54
Occupation: CEO of Sears and Kmart
Last Seen: Chicago
Bee-otched For: being a pure failure

As a kid growing up in northern Michigan in the 1980s, a trip to Cherryland Mall was magical, at least most of the time.

From its opening in 1977 to 1992, it was northern Michigan's biggest mall. It was tiny comparing to other malls elsewhere, but it was our mall. It had four anchors: Sears, Kmart, Pringe's (now Younker's) and Tom's Food Market plus about 50 stores. As a kid, I remembered such stores as Circus World (a toy store), Id (a women's clothing store), Camelot Music, Tape World (after all, this was the 80s) and oh, yes, Mr. Bulky's, which sold bulk candies and nuts and Aladdin's Castle, the video arcade.

One of my fondest memories
 of Cherryland was when I was back-to-school shopping with my mom and I wanted Reebok Pumps. Foot Locker was there and she pulled me out of the store, telling me, "no, we're going HERE." "Here" was Kinney Shoes, which sold no-name crap. I reluctantly said that the crappy shoes mom bought me were cool and yes, the high school kids on my bus where nice enough to make fun of the cheap-assed shoes that broke apart after a few weeks after I started wearing them.

Well, Kinney's days were thankfully ending in Traverse City.

In 1992, Grand Traverse Mall opened up the road with Target, Hudson's (now Macy's) and JCPenney, which moved from its downtown location since the 1920s. They eventually added a TJ Maxx as its fourth anchor.

Grand Traverse Mall had everything Cherryland didn't: a food court with a carousel, an eight-screen movie theater (later grown to nine), more stores and a much-bigger arcade, Pocket Change. The only thing Cherryland had that Grand Traverse didn't have was a supermarket and water fountains.

Cherryland spent most of the 90s seeing all of their old stores moving to Grand Traverse Mall and becoming a sea of celled-up storefronts and mom-n-pop stores selling everything from fossilized rocks to Catholic reading materials. If the Steph Lawlesses, Ace's Adventures and Dan Bells were around back then, Cherryland would have been a dream for them.

Finally, in 1999, the mall's owners gave up and converted Cherryland into a power center, which was basically an outdoor mall. Sears, Tom's, Kmart and Younker's all stayed. One store, Fashion Bug even migrated from Grand Traverse Mall into the newly-rechristened Cherryland Center. Other stores added to Cherryland included Bath and Body Works, Quizno's Subs,, Payless Shoes, Gamestop and at one point, even a Sam Goody.

But despite their makeover, Cherryland has not much to celebrate.

Since their 1999 remodel, Cherryland Center has never been at 100% capacity. In 2010, Cherryland was foreclosed and taken over by a bank. They also lost Tom's, but it was eventually taken over as a Big Lots. Cherryland is now owned by Kumar Vemulapalli, who bought the mall in 2013 for $3 million. He owned several dilapidated properties in the Flint area; one building, Genesee Towers was imploded in 2013 after it was condemned by the city.

Now, Cherryland is about to lose one of its oldest and most-trusted tenants: Kmart.

After over 40 years, Kmart will be closing their Cherryland location in September. It's one of 66 stores that the retailer is closing and one of three here in Michigan, all up north. The other two locations are in Cheboygan and West Branch.

Recently, the chain closed their other Traverse City area location in Acme. When the Cherryland Kmart closes, people looking for that Blue Light Special will now have to drive all the way to Charlevoix or Grayling, two towns far, far away from Meijer or Walmart. Here in Grand Rapids, we have to drive all the way to either Greenville or Hastings.

It's all part of the mismanagement of the chain by Eddie Lampert, the billionaire businessman whose antics have made it so that many speculate that by year's end, Sears and Kmart will be forever shuttered and Cherryland will now have TWO giant spaces to fill. In recent years, Sears and Kmart have been struggling with everything from competition from Walmart and online retailers to the fact that most of their stores look like they haven't been updated since they introduced the logo that's a red K with a white cursive Mart inside the K.

The point is, this is the world of capitalism. If you own a business that sells a quality product at a fair price, people will shop there. If you have a business that's well-organized and treats their employees well, then you deserve to make millions and even more. Sadly, that doesn't describe Eddie Lampert to a tee and now, Sears and Kmart may be closing by the end of 2017.

As for Cherryland, God only knows what will happen there. Hell, I'd like to know what will happen to Kmart's Acme location. As for Grand Rapids, that's a good question, though my former Kmart - which closed before I came here in 2002 - is now a Burlington Coat Factory.

Put a good thing in somebody good's hands and you'll get good results. If not, well, look at Sears and Kmart.


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