EDWARDSVILLE – "Woo-hooooo! Kmart's back!" shouted a woman walking into the newly reopened store Monday.
That was the sentiment of just about everybody who came to shop at the store on U.S. Route 11 that was heavily damaged by flooding in September 2011, renovated and reopened Monday at 8 a.m.
The parking lot was filled, and inside, bright white floors, ceilings and walls greeted faithful customers who lamented time and again that they were tired of having to cross the Susquehanna River to shop.
Store manager Jim Soucy said new product lines, wider aisles and expanded departments will make the new store all the more popular with shoppers. An official grand opening will be held Sept. 8.
Denise Talley greeted every customer walking through the front door of the newly remodeled Kmart .
"Everybody has been so nice and they all are happy that we're open again," said Talley.
Soucy, who has been with Kmart for 42 years – 11 in Edwardsville -- said the Edwardsville store ranks in the top 10 percent in the Kmart chain for profit and sales.
"The decision to come back was easy," Soucy said. "We're the only large merchandise store in town. This is a great town – our customers missed us and we missed them."
The store opened as a Kmart in October 1974, Soucy said – the same day Kmart opened stores in Wilkes-Barre on Route 309 and in Moosic.
Norm and Kathleen Miller of Larksville were leaving with a shopping cart filled with bags.
"We couldn't wait to get Kmart back," Norm said. "It's really beautiful; much brighter."
"We're glad we can come here and no longer have to travel over to Wilkes-Barre," said Denise Dalley . "Most of the people I've talked to are excited that Kmart is back. We like it here – it's like coming home again."
Some customers had difficulty adjusting to the new layout and had to ask for directions.
Mollie Hardin brought her two children, Devin, 10, and Kiley, 9, to do some back-to-school shopping.
"It's so convenient here," she said.
Soucy said Acadia Realty of White Plains, N.Y., owns the plaza. He said he has heard rumors of other stores coming in, but he couldn't confirm anything. Four other pre-flood tenants – Payless Shoes, Dollar General, The Bounce Place and Redner's Supermarket – have not returned.
A message left at Acadia Realty was not returned.
"We look different," Soucy said. "We're totally new. Departments have been relocated, we have an extended pantry with 15 coolers and more frozen foods, and our pet center has been expanded. We have a new electronic center and we've added major appliances."
And Nathan's Hot Dogs is at the front of the store near the checkout lanes.
"There's always a line there too," Soucy said.