For the third time in 13 months, Batavia is losing a big box store -- Office Max; Bed, Bath & Beyond; and now Kmart -- and given the nation's retail trends, it's by no means certain any of these vacant buildings will be filled any time soon.
The last time a big box closed prior to this spate of going-out-of-business sales, it took the landlord only a year to replace Lowe's with Dick's Sporting Goods and Kohl's Department Store but since then e-commerce sales have grown to represent 8 percent of all retail sales (Lowe's announced its closure seven years ago today).
It's also become harder for Industrial Development Agencies in New York, such as Genesee County Economic Development Center, to offer incentives for retail development.
Still, Tom Turnbull, president of the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, is optimistic none of these big buildings will sit vacant long. He's a Batavia native and has seen a lot of businesses come and go.
"I call it the business circle of life," Turnbull said.
Turnbull remembers when Kmart was located where Aldi is now, and he remembers Twin Fair where the Department of Social Services is now and Valu Home Store in what is now County Building #2. He remembers W.T. Grant at the corner of Harvester and East Main and when Eli Fish Co. was Newberry's.
"It's the ebb and flow of business," Turnbull said. "You never know what is going to happen, especially with these big national retailers. It will fill up again and then it may be empty again."
There have been rumors, which Turnbull has heard, too, that Batavia Downs is interested in the Kmart property.
"It makes a lot of sense for them to have that property," Turnbull said. "It would be good for them and it would be good for us -- it's not unusual for big box stores to sit empty for a long time and become a real eyesore so it would be great for Batavia Downs to come in and swoop it up. It would be good for everybody."
Ryan Hasenauer, director of marketing for Batavia Downs, said in a statement this morning that, "While we do not currently have any timeline information on the store’s closing, we would not rule out an interest in this or any adjacent property to Batavia Downs if it were to become available. Regardless of what happens with the property, we will reach out to Kmart management for some job placement opportunities at Batavia Downs for Kmart employees that will be impacted with a layoff."
The Kmart store is 115,554 square feet and sits on 10.3 acres. The total assessment is $4.1 million, according to county records. The store was built in 1994. The listed owner is Wilmington Trust Company.
Wilmington Trust is affiliated with M&T Bank and specializes in, among other things, acting as administrator for properties held in trust. A trust is a legal entity that holds title to a property for the benefit of another person or group of people, such as heirs to an estate.
While Wilmington Trust is listed as the property owner, Wilmington is strictly and administrator of the property for the beneficiary of the trust, said spokesman Kent Wissinger. The beneficiary is the actual owner and has sole discretion on whether to sell or retain the property.
There is no information available on who is the beneficiary of the trust.
How any potential sale of the property might be handled, Wissinger said, is subject to the terms of the trust and he said he didn't have access to that information.
County records seem to indicate the trust has held title to the property since at least 1994.
Kmart, a subsidiary of Sears Holdings Corp., which declared bankruptcy after years of financial struggles, has not announced a closing date for the store.