The Kmart store in my neighborhood closed last weekend. Now there’s a giant empty space in the Spirit Valley Mall in West Duluth, with a faded area above the doors where a sign once read: “Big Kmart.”
It took more than 30 years for the store to run itself out of business, and I’d probably need a degree in finance and a long look inside the books of parent company Sears Holdings Corporation to ever understand. How does a neighborhood’s only department store — a place that’s known for always having lines at the cash registers — go out of business?
The answer to that question might be that retail stores are struggling in general, and any store with massive overhead costs that provides a lousy shopping experience doesn’t stand a chance. And the West Duluth Kmart was a lousy shopping experience.
The lines at Kmart perhaps weren’t due to the high volume of traffic, but instead the understaffing at the store. Target or Wal-Mart might have a dozen checkouts open at once; Kmart seldom had more than two.
I left Panera for the RealisticJoneses at the Zeitgeist while, it seemed to me, a woman was in a tree. I’m not entirely sure about the tree part — I know she was in the woods, alongside the creek behind the parking lot separating the Panera from the Aldi complex, and I know that the police and EMTs were looking upward as one of the pines was shaking. I didn’t see her. I could only hear her voice, sadly crying that people believed that something was wrong with her. I felt a sadness that mirrored hers. There was no way for this story to end which didn’t fulfill her words. I wished there were a way for people to just turn their backs and let her leave, if that would be what she wanted.
Photographer and filmmaker Nik Nerburn has a show at Hemlocks Leatherworks and a show opening next Thursday at Duluth Art Institute. His photos are spontaneous glances that grab and pull you in, wondering about the rest of the story.
NN: I’m a documentary storyteller. I make movies and take pictures. Most of my work is about life in the upper Midwest, mostly rural areas, small towns, and places that are changing. I’m currently working on a photo essay about the shifting politics and culture of Duluth and the Iron Range, a documentary film called The Great American Think Off about a philosophy contest in New York Mills, Minnesota (population 1,119), and a photo book called The Grand Terrace Photo League, which is a documentary collaboration between myself and the residents of an apartment building in Worthington, Minn., which houses mostly recent immigrants who work at a nearby pork processing plant. I care about expanding the common life and finding ways to relate across great differences.
As the leaves start to turn and the smell of fall starts to waft through the air, local theater companies are springing to life. It’s time for the Perfect Duluth Day theater primer. If it’s on the stage, it’s in our calendar.
Just kidding, I’m not really dead. But it has been a summer without an Aquaman. Some might call me Lake Superior Absentman. I’m sorry I went dark for a while. After several years of spending nearly every summer day at the water’s edge, this summer I barely touched it. There are many reasons why and the PDD community is the place to unpack them.
Andy McMurray uploaded this video to YouTube ten years ago today — Sept. 5, 2008. It shows a group of Duluth kayakers plunging down Illgen Falls at the Baptism River, about 60 miles northeast of Duluth. The video also details the work a video crew went through to set up shots — rigging highlines, pulleys and ropes.
The video was described on Perfect Duluth Day in 2008 as “tightrope walking meets kayak boating.”
Left to right above: New Lake Superior Magazine owners Beth Bily and Ron Brochu, former owners Cindy Hayden and Paul Hayden
Two longtime, Duluth-based media organizations with a combined 66 years in existence are now under the same ownership following the Aug. 31 sale of Lake Superior Magazine and its associated books and merchandising operations to the publishers of BusinessNorth and Scenic Range News Forum. The entities announced the sale in a news release today.