Saying 'please stay' might work again for Decatur
When it appeared the Kmart store would close in Decatur more than two decades ago, community leaders didn't sit around bemoaning the pending loss.
A delegation led by then-Mayor Bill Dukes went to corporate headquarters in Troy, Mich., armed with facts about the vitality of the local market.
"Stay," the group pleaded. "We want Kmart in Decatur."
That was 23 years ago and Kmart is still at Beltline Road and U.S. 31.
Colonial Mall appears to be in a position similar to that in which Kmart found itself in 1983, when Mr. Dukes and four other community leaders made that trip. The mall needs extensive renovation to compete and it needs its two longtime anchor stores to commit to staying.
The city committed $4 million to give the mall a new fašade and a new theater and to help Dillard's consolidate under one roof. Colonial Properties said it would spend $19 million modernizing the mall if all the plans work out.
Belk Inc. then bought 38 Parisian department stores, including the one in the mall. But Dillard's and Belk apparently are yet to tell Colonial Properties of Birmingham their plans for their Decatur stores.
Kmart agreed to stay in 1983 as a result of the visit, and changed its marketing strategy to become profitable.
Kmart's president made a surprise visit to Decatur because of the civic interest shown in keeping the store open.
A visit to their headquarters might not influence Dillard's or Belk's decisions about Decatur today, but the visit to Michigan caused Kmart executives to re-examine their plans for the store here.
That Kmart is still open all these years later speaks for its success.
Perhaps Mayor Don Kyle and a few other people need to go visiting.
We want and need Dillard's and Belk in Decatur to help keep the retail sector healthy and entice more people to shop at home.