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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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K MART. Sebastian S. Kresge, the founder of the company that would become Kmart, met variety store pioneer Frank Woolworth while working as a traveling salesman and selling to all nineteen of Woolworth's stores. In 1897 Kresge invested in two five and dime stores with his friend John McCrory; they were the first S.S. Kresge stores. By 1907 Kresge bought out McCrory and then in 1899 founded his company with Charles J. Wilson with an $8,000 investment in two five-and-ten-cent stores, one in downtown Detroit, Michigan. (1)

In 1912, Kresge incorporated the S.S. Kresge Corporation with eighty-five stores. During WORLD WAR I, Kresge experimented with raising the limit on prices in his stores to $1. Early growth was reflected by 257 stores in 1924 growing to 597 stores operating in 1929. (2) The GREAT DEPRESSION reduced profitability and the number of stores fell to 682 in 1940.

In 1990, in an effort to change its image, Kmart introduced a new logo. The company also began to offer exclusive merchandise by Martha Stewart, Kathy Ireland, Jaclyn Smith, and Thalía. Other recognizable brands included Sesame Street and Disney. Rosie O'Donnell and Penny Marshall were among the company's most recognized spokespersons. (3)

The original Blue Light Special, first introduced in 1965, was retired in 1991. The company brought back the Blue Light Special in 2001, but again discontinued it in 2002. The concept was briefly revived in 2005, though Kmart at that time had no plans to use the concept long-term. Blue Light Specials were revived again in 2009 on Saturdays, offering surprise hour-long sales on selected merchandise. (4)

In 1994, Kmart closed 110 stores. Unlike its competitors Walmart and Target, it had failed to invest in computer technology to manage its supply chain. Kmart also maintained a high dividend, which reduced the amount of money available for improving its stores.

On November 17, 2004, Kmart announced its intention to purchase Sears, Roebuck and Company. As a part of the merger, the Kmart Holdings Corporation changed its name to Sears Holdings Corporation. On December 27, 2011, after a poor showing from holiday shoppers, Sears Holdings announced that 100 to 120 of Sears/Kmart stores would close. (5)

The first K Mart in Iowa came to Dubuque in 1962 as a new type of store--a discount store selling nearly everything. Its being open on Sunday was controversial. Its location, outside the city limits, eventually became the business anchor of Plaza 20 at 2600 Dodge which was not then in the city limits. (6)

In January 2017 Sears Holdings said it informed workers that 108 Kmart stores, including the one in Dubuque, and 42 Sears stores would close in the spring. (7)




1. "K Mart" Wikipedia

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. Gilligan, Amy. "Remembering K Mart, the Store Dubuque Outgrew," January 10, 2017, p. 4A

7. Burkham, Larry. "Kmart Stores in Dubuque, Waterloo Among Those Closing by End of March," KWWL.com. Online: http://www.kcrg.com/content/news/Kmart-stores-in-Dubuque-Waterloo-among-those-closing-by-end-of-March-409701725.html

"Chronology '72, Telegraph Herald