By Marty Russell

Daily Journal

Tupelo's Kmart, located in the Mall at Barnes Crossing, will close April 16 after company officials said it was not performing well in the local market. But a mall official said a replacement tenant for the soon-to-be-vacant space, one of the mall's anchor positions, may already have been found.

"We did announce that we are closing that store April 16," said Maria Seyrig, a Kmart spokeswoman at the company's headquarters in Troy, Mich.

Local Kmart officials declined to comment and referred all questions to Seyrig.

"We, on a regular basis, analyze the performance of our stores and that store was not meeting our requirements for sales and profits," Seyrig said of the reason for the closure.

The Tupelo store had originally been on a list of 72 stores slated to be closed last August. Company officials sent a letter in June to Tupelo Mayor Jack Marshall notifying him that the store would close Aug. 30.

However, company officials changed their minds and took the Tupelo store off the closure list on May 30. The store's manager at that time, Mark Acton, said he did not know why his store was taken off the list.

Greg Polachek, manager of the Mall at Barnes Crossing, said a new tenant for the 85,000-square-foot space being vacated by Kmart may have already been found but declined to name the prospective new business or say what type of retailer it might be.

"There are negotiations going on with another merchant," Polachek said. "We're moving forward and expect to conclude that rather quickly. In fact, the architects were in looking at it Monday so we're well into negotiations."

Kmart was one of the five original anchor stores at the mall but opened about a year after the mall itself opened in 1990. The other anchors are McRae's, Sears, JC Penney and Belk.

Seyrig said the Tupelo Kmart currently has 59 employees, including six management positions. She said those employees would not be offered jobs at the company's other stores.

"These positions will be considered terminated, but they are welcome to reapply at other stores and, if hired, they would not lose their seniority," Seyrig said.

The only other Kmart store in the Northeast Mississippi area is located in Corinth. That store has not been targeted for closure.

Kmart operates stores in 23 states.

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