Manhattan's most beloved big box store has closed.
The Astor Place Kmart at 770 Broadway, closed its doors on Sunday, July 11, following a quick "Total Inventory Blowout" over the weekend, allowing shoppers to purchase everything in sight, from slightly damaged office supplies to the mannequins that welcomed East Village shoppers over the past 25 years.
According to the blog EV Grieve, the store's employees were not notified of the closing until Friday, and many locals were also in shock that such an iconic, and oddly adored institution, would suddenly close shop.
The Astor Place Kmart was a spot for NYU students to load up on essentials at the beginning of the semester, an affordable and certainly always surprising source for art supplies and theater costumes, and of course, a unique way to enter the 6 train at Astor Place. Many rainstorms, bad dates and awkward interactions were avoided thanks to the safe haven that is this all-American discount store. The furniture section offered ample space to nap between parties, and the dressing rooms an escape to change outfits between events. Luckily, the semi-public bathrooms were more easily accessible than the constantly busy Starbucks restroom across the street.
While much of the East Village transformed over the past three decades, the Astor Place Kmart stayed steady, hosting concerts, celebrity meet-and-greets, and more unplanned celebrity run ins. Everyone needs toilet paper. In 2018, the store downsized from three levels to two, after the building's landlord, Vornado Realty Trust reportedly paid $46 million to Kmart as a lease buyout. Facebook, as well as AOL and more tech companies also hold offices at 770 Broadway, leading to questions about what the lower-level retail space will be --more tech offices? A Whole Foods with a self-serve beer bar? An Apple store? Whatever it is, it won't have the panache of the specifically quirky Astor Place Kmart.
New Yorkers took to Twitter to share their memories of the Astor Place Kmart, RIP:
Sad that the Astor Place Kmart is closing today. Truly one one of the weirdest shopping experiences for reasons I could never quite put my finger on.— Jason Diamond (@imjasondiamond) July 12, 2021
RIP to Astor place Kmart the last truly liminal space in Manhattan— good time guy (@britishvisiting) July 12, 2021
Chances are if you tweeted that the Astor Place Kmart was weird, you’re in New York for Instagram pics and fun tweets about New York things but once you meet a significant other, you’ll be on the first flight out of here because you “can’t raise a family in the city”— Samantha (@makemelaughsam) July 13, 2021
what if we kissed one last time in front of the astor place kmart 🥺— Zack Knoll (@zackknoll_) July 12, 2021
Here's Garth Brooks performing at what was once New York City's hottest music venue, the Astor Place Kmart, in 1997 pic.twitter.com/LGHd79Ib2x— Matt Jacobs (@tarantallegra) July 12, 2021
the thing about the Astor Place Kmart that everyone is eulogizing today is that it wasn't so much a store as it was a portal to a grimy, dingy other dimension, a liminal space of perpetually flickering fluorescent lights and quiet, inexplicable chaos— midge ✨ (@megclark_txt) July 12, 2021
rip to the astor place kmart. you never had what i was looking for.— Daniela 🌞 (@CardarelliDani) July 12, 2021
The Astor Place Kmart taught me it was okay to be weird. (RIP)— banned in jc (@BannedInJC) July 13, 2021
RIP to the kmart on astor place where i used to repeatedly overdraw my debit card for the blue flavored ramen leaving me with a total balance of -$26.64 🙏🏿— gallant (@SoGallant) July 12, 2021
RIP the Astor place Kmart I cried through so many of your basement aisles— Megan Thee Allison (@meganhayes_____) July 12, 2021
I owe my BFA to the Astor Place Kmart. Where else could I buy last minute props for scene study AND send money to China for the 8 fake IDs I had in college?— Minister Gloria (@GrayceToon) July 12, 2021
One time at the Astor Place Kmart I watched an NYU student tell her professor they shouldn’t have sex anymore because it was bad for her social life.— Jessie defund police fund abortions Losch💚🇺🇾🌱 (@JessieLosch) July 12, 2021
RIP Astor Place Kmart. So many amazing shows there over the years: Ramones, Talking Heads, Television, Blondie. It was the birthplace of punk. NYC will never be the same.— Alex Scordelis (@alexscordelis) July 13, 2021
Seeing a lot of “*real* New Yorkers never went into the Astor Place KMart” like there’s something not New York about trying to dodge someone following you so you run into the KMart and exit through the basement connection to the 6 train platform and get on the train and escape— Lux 🧠 Alptraum (@LuxAlptraum) July 12, 2021
wait is the astor place kmart the one that's kind of near nyu because if so, i think i accidentally spent a weekend in the basement in the summer of '99— Imani Gandy (@AngryBlackLady) July 12, 2021
The Penn Plaza Kmart closed earlier this year, leaving New York City with only two Kmart locations, both in The Bronx.