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Superior, Virginia, Ironwood Kmart stores to close in April

Three Northland Kmart stores will close in mid-April, owner Sears Holdings announced Tuesday.

The Kmarts in Superior, Virginia and Ironwood, Mich., have been slated for closure. In Superior, the news comes as the nearby Target store prepares to close its doors for good on Jan. 30. In Virginia, the store closure is another economic hit for a city already reeling from layoffs at Iron Range mines.

“A lot of employees’ jobs are going to be lost as a result of this and we really don’t need any more job loss here,” Virginia Mayor Larry Cuffe Jr. said after getting the news Tuesday.

The Virginia closure — for the store at Thunderbird Mall — will affect 48 employees. The Superior closure — for the store located at 3015 Tower Ave. — will affect 42 employees, while the closure of the Ironwood store, located along U.S. Highway 2, will affect 47 employees.

The stores will begin liquidation sales Jan. 24, but remain open to the public until mid-April.

Sears Holdings spokesman Howard Riefs said that eligible store associates will receive severance and can apply for open positions at others Sears or Kmart stores. The majority of the affected workers are part-time employees.

The closure announcements come about four years after Sears Holdings announced it would close the Kmart store near Miller Hill Mall in Duluth. That store location is now occupied by Hobby Lobby.

The pending closure of the Superior store will leave just one Kmart location in the Twin Ports, in West Duluth. There also is a Sears store at Miller Hill Mall, and a Kmart store remains open in International Falls.

Riefs said no other Wisconsin stores are slated for closure at this time. One other Minnesota store will be closing in April — in Dundas, near Northfield.

“Store closures are part of a series of actions we’re taking to reduce ongoing expenses, adjust our asset base and accelerate the transformation of our business model,” Riefs said.

Customers with layaway contracts at the affected stores have a couple of options. They can pay off the contract early or transfer their contract to a neighboring store or online. The transfer can be done by an associate in-store without a need to cancel and re-create the contract. Layaway customers can expect to hear about their options the next time they go in to make a payment.

“We truly apologize for any customer inconvenience,” Riefs said.

Cuffe, the Virginia mayor, said the closure comes as many laid-off miners have exhausted their unemployment benefits and part-time jobs for which they could apply are already in short supply, adding to the pressure on those searching for work, he said.

“We’re struggling. We’re struggling pretty good,” he said. “It’s another empty building in the city of Virginia. There are too many. We have empty buildings on the main street. Kmart closing is devastating news for the work force and for our retail industry as well.”

Cuffe said city leaders hadn’t been notified about the closure before it was announced Tuesday, and he said he feels for the employees. He said he had a sense that it was going to close at some point, but he was hoping it would stay open until the end of 2016 to give the mines time to possibly reopen to put miners back to work.

In Superior, Tuesday’s news came in the wake of mixed economic news late last year. Target announced in November that it would be closing its Superior store, and the city’s only movie theater — the Superior Value Cinema — closed in December. Meanwhile, a new Aldi supermarket opened on Tower Avenue on Nov. 12.

Lisa Kaczke of the News Tribune contributed to this report.

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