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World’s Largest Kmart

July 11, 2011
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A long time ago and in a world far, far away, one Sebastian Spering Kresge invested in a pair of five-and-dime stores in Detroit, MI.  These grew to become Kmart – the discount retail giant Sam Walton patterned his stores after (and eventually eclipsed).

As a kid, we spent many hours wandering the wide aisles of Kmart – beginning at the Southfield location on 8 Mile and then later the 13 Mile and Orchard Lake road locale.  The stores were always packed – with people and products.

With the advent of Wal-Mart, Kmart experienced a steady decline, falling into insolvency and merging with Sears, shuttering its headquarters along with many of its stores.  It’s not been the same since – dingy stores, old stock and empty parking lots the norm.

Where America’s Day begins, however – it’s a different story.

The Guam Kmart is the largest store on the island – by a wide margin.  It’s not just big – it’s enormous.  How big, you ask?

Look closely at the photo above; you’ll see a light post and the roofline of a truck on top of the store.  Yes.  It’s big enough to warrant parking on the roof!   It’s so big that it was impossible to fit into a single photo.

Like the Kmarts of my youth – it was packed.

We had to park halfway to the Philippines, as the ground level lot was full – and I don’t like lugging stuff up the stairs to the roof lot.

In addition to local business, this is a prime destination for the Japanese, Korean and Chinese tourists visiting the island!

Kmart is a tour bus stop – honest!

Inside – it’s pretty much like any other Kmart – except that it’s clean and bright with fully stocked aisles.  Oh – and customers clamoring for products.

There are a few key differences, though.   First is signage:

Three languages to accomodate us, the Chamorro and the Japanese.

Second is a quirk specific to Pacific islands:The Spam aisle.  Everything in this view is canned luncheon meat – with the exception of some spices at the far right.    They even have a flavour unique to Kmart:

Island Spam. I have no idea what it tastes like – and I’m banned from buying any more Spam until Pauline leaves the island.

The checkout area is unlike any I’ve seen in a Kmart.

18 aisles humming, with most of them open on the Saturday afternoon we were there.

The trick to getting through checkout quickly is to avoid the lines with Japanese, as they don’t speak English – and the cashiers speak only Chamorro and English.

The Japanese buy quite a bit – and communication is reduced to pantomine.  It’s slow going – and half the people in the store are Japanese.

It’s heartening to see a Midwestern institution prosper halfway around the world, and a reminder of the comforts of home.

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