R.I.P. Sears, Roebuck and Company of Duluth

Sears, Roebuck and Company’s Downtown Duluth department store; 1963 photo from the Kathryn A. Martin Library’s Northeast Minnesota Historical Collections at UMD.

The news broke this week that Sears Holdings will close 15 Kmart stores and 48 Sears stores, including the Sears at Miller Hill Mall and the Kmart at the Spirit Valley Shopping Center in West Duluth.

Sears has been in business in Duluth since 1929, when Sears, Roebuck and Company opened a department store at 129 E. Superior St., the modern-day location of Fond-du-Luth Casino.

Richard Warren Sears, who grew up in southeastern Minn., started a mail-order catalog business with Alvah Curtis Roebuck in the late 19th Century. With new partner Julius Rosenwald, Sears grew the business and opened the first Sears, Roebuck and Company retail store in 1925. The Duluth store followed four years later.

The Downtown Duluth Sears store closed March 19, 1983. The company resisted pleas to open a new store at a proposed $70ish-million development to be built on stilts over I-35 from Superior Street to the Duluth Arena. Another plan to move Sears into a proposed Ridgewood Mall in Hermantown also fell apart.

Sears instead began building its 109,021-square-foot attachment to Miller Hill Mall in 1986.

The city ceded the original Downtown Sears property to the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, which established Duluth’s first and only casino there in 1986.

Photo from April 1983 by Art Hager for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

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