Founded in 1954 in Decatur, Illinois, K’s Merchandise Mart is (or was, depending on when you read this) a hard-lines merchandise wholesaler not unlike the now-defunct Service Merchandise chain. Like Service Merchandise, it has fallen on hard times as competition from stores which offer overlapping merchandise at competitive prices, more convenient locations, or both have flooded the markets where K’s operates. Earlier this year, a Boston-based bank offered K’s a cash infusion to avert bankruptcy. K’s used the cash to spiff up its stores, namely the furniture and jewelry departments, and anticipated larger sales from these modifications in order to pay off the bank and get back in the black. Unfortunately, the increased sales never materialized, and K’s has been forced to pack up and march out. All 17 of K’s stores in Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa, and Missouri will liquidate and close when the walls are bare, including the Rockford location I shopped at as a kid.
With the closest Service Merchandise in the Chicago area – over an hour away from where I grew up in Janesville, WI, we shopped at K’s Merchandise for those crazy times we needed wholesale hardlines and needed them fast. K’s was never a fancy store, and I personally thought the concept was easily duplicated at specialty electronics, jewelry, or general discount retailers like Wal-Mart and Target. In fact, I haven’t even been inside a K’s store in over a decade, a testament to the loss of my need for the store. In addition, just last week when passing a K’s incidently I had wondered about their viability.
The stores themselves were never fancy in decor, in varying conditions physically, and until very recently never attempted to update themselves as Service Merchandise did toward the end of its run, modernizing many of its stores. Perhaps the only interesting thing about K’s is the logo, and the memories you have if you ever shopped there. Feel free to post comments about K’s, too.