Publix moving to old Kmart building in Key Largo

An empty Kmart at Tradewinds Plaza in Key Largo. JIM McCARTHY/Keys Weekly

A vacant parking lot and a shuttered Kmart storefront at Tradewinds Plaza in Key Largo won’t be like that for long. Kmart’s recent closure has opened a relocation opportunity for one grocery store currently located at the plaza. 

Maria Brous, Publix director of communications, confirmed to the Keys Weekly that the Publix store is relocating within the plaza. Timing has yet to be determined, she said. 

May 24 marked the final day for the Kmart store at Tradewinds Plaza in Key Largo. With the Marathon closing in mid-May, Kmart’s presence in the Upper and Middle Keys came to an official end after it was learned months earlier that job postings sought temporary positions for store closings. 

Shelves and stock eventually whittled away to empty space with nothing but support beams and ceiling lights. In recent months, parts of the Marathon store, like the former toy department, were blocked off. Instead of a selection of small appliances, entire aisles were filled with the same make and model of microwaves, for example. 

The same went for the Key Largo store, where blocked-off areas shrunk the store. While the toy and clothes departments remained, the seasonal section, electronics area and outdoors department were barricaded. 

Eventually, blowout sales and everything must go signs were posted.

The community learned of the impending Kmart closures in late March when Transformco, the parent company of Kmart and Sears, listed temporary customer service jobs for “store closing”  at locations in Key Largo, Marathon and a store in California. 

The Kmart building that Publix will occupy in Key Largo is roughly 102,400-square-foot. The empty, 52,500-square-foot store in Marathon has seen some interest from Floor & Decor. The company, headquartered in Georgia, submitted a request to the city for a “pre-application concept meeting,” though a date hasn’t been set. 

Kmart’s store in Key West wasn’t put on the chopping block and remains open.

The closure of Sears in Key West last summer was done in a similar way. The Key West Sears opened in 1965 in the New Town shopping center.

With both stores shuttered, and one in California also closing, about 20 Kmart stores remain. As for Sears stores, only 28 remain.

Jim McCarthy is one of the many Western New Yorkers who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 4-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, hockey, mixed martial arts and golf. He also enjoys time with family and his new baby boy, Lucas, who arrived Oct. 4, 2022.