I'm sure there are some people in South County – including 90 full- and part-time employees – who will miss the Morgan Hill Kmart when it closes, but I won't be among them.
I'd stopped venturing into the store because every trip seemed to feature a healthy dose of frustration – one cashier with a long line and no move by anyone in a supervisory role to open another register, locked garden center doors during business hours, to name just two.
So, while a few shoppers may mourn the impending closing of the discount store, I seem to be more in tune with the attitude of Morgan Hill Mayor Dennis Kennedy, who is already considering what retailer might fill the roughly 100,000-square-foot space at Dunne Avenue and U.S. 101.
"That is a prime location – one of the best commercial sites in all of South Santa Clara County," Kennedy told reporter Carol Holzgrafe. "We have a couple of prospects who would be stronger economically than Kmart has been. They would provide even more jobs, revenue and opportunities for citizens to shop."
Well, Mr. Mayor, here are my suggestions:
• Trader Joe's – described on the company's Web site as a "unique grocery store chain" whose "mission is to bring all our customers the best food and beverage values to be found anywhere ..." I realize the presence of Safeway at the other end of the Lawrence Oaks Shopping Center probably limits the likelihood of this fantasy becoming a reality, but like every head-in-the-clouds dreamer, I still hold tightly to my vision.
In the name of research, this week I visited the closest Trader Joe's – at 5985 Almaden Expressway – and purchased items I can't get anywhere in South County – chicken perogi, gorgonzola and walnut tortellini, two one-pound packages of fresh pizza dough (99 cents each); plus a few items I can – an organic catnip cat scratcher toy ($3.99), frozen meatballs, peeled organic baby carrots, sliced pepperoni, and Constant Comment tea ($1.99). I spent a grand total of $21.64, including sales tax. What a deal.
During my visit, I was assisted by two friendly and helpful employees in locating merchandise. When you add the unique items the chain carries and the reasonable prices to the store's attractions, who wouldn't want a Trader Joe's in South County? I guess just Safeway and Nob Hill Foods.
• Fry's Electronics – A member of the Fry's family is said to live in Morgan Hill. Hey Mr. Fry, why not help your neighbors and city, which could certainly use a bit of the sales tax revenue a Fry's would generate? I predict South Valley residents – including those in Hollister and San Benito County, as well as folks from Salinas – would flock to a large-scale electronics and computer-geek-gear retailer.
Between the casual computer users and hard-core computer wizards who live in and commute through South Valley, surely a Fry's would be a big hit.
• Organized Living – Have you ever been to this store at Valley Fair Mall? It sells everything you could possibly need – OK, and also a lot of things you probably don't need – to organize all your stuff.
Shelving, containers of every size and material, hooks, cabinets, desks, entertainment centers, closet systems – you name it, they've got it. Especially when I'm in an organize-the-whole-darn-house frame of mind, this store is dangerous to my wallet. If newly-on-their-own young adults started at Organized Living before they bought any new possessions, they'd probably be so broke they wouldn't be able to afford to fill their shelves, closets, boxes, jars and organizers. But their closets and cabinets sure would look great.
Whatever goes into the soon-to-be empty Kmart shell, here's the key: the retailer needs to offer something new and different, something not already available in the area. That's my recipe for retail success in South County.