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KMART IS BEING FORCED TO CLOSE STORE IN ORCHARD PARK

Kmart is closing its Orchard Park store because its landlord would not renew its lease, according to a Kmart spokesman.

The bankrupt retailer is facing the same problem across the country, as landlords are moving to sever their relationships with the company.

Kmart has closed a store in Oregon and a store in South Dakota because landlords would not renew leases. Kmart spokesman Steve Pagnani said he did not know of any expired lease that had been renewed recently.

In Orchard Park, the store at 3195 Southwestern Blvd. in the Five Corners Plaza will close by Jan. 15. Benderson Development Co. owns the plaza, which is also home to a Tops Market, Stein Mart and Colonial Wines & Spirits. Rex Burgher, Benderson's vice president of development, was traveling on business and not available to comment.

Tops Markets expects the Kmart closing to have little impact on its grocery business.

"It's certainly a disappointment to see Kmart close," said Stefanie Zakowicz, Tops spokeswoman. "However, we don't expect it to impact our business due to the fact that it is a new plaza and the plaza is growing."

Kmart declared bankruptcy Jan. 22 and has been given until late February 2003 to file its bankruptcy reorganization plan. The company has said it expects to exit bankruptcy by July.

"We have not announced another round of closings," Pagnani said. "There are no other closings planned."

But the Atlanta Business Chronicle has said it obtained a list of 567 stores that Kmart might close. Kmart has denied any such list exists.

This is the second time a list purporting to identify closing Kmart stores has surfaced. In February, the Atlanta Business Chronicle reported it had a list of 291 stores Kmart might close to save money.

A month later, Kmart announced it would close 284 of its 2,114 stores. The business publication included 32 stores on its list that did not close and also failed to identify 50 stores that did close.

In Western New York, four of the five Kmarts on the list were on Kmart's official list of store closings. Kmart later decided to keep open its store at 998 Broadway in Buffalo after receiving tax breaks from the city. Three other stores closed: 3901 Vineyard Drive in the Town of Dunkirk; 5770 S. Transit Road in Lockport; and 8150 Transit Road in Amherst.

The Kmart at 975 Fairmount Ave., Jamestown, was rumored to close but was not on the list.

The second list of 565 stores includes four local stores: South Park Avenue in Hamburg, Military Road in the Town of Niagara, Southwestern Boulevard in Orchard Park and West State Street in Olean.

e-mail: lhaarlander@buffnews.com

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