Rural King, which bills itself as “America’s Farm and Home Store,” could soon have a presence in Mount Airy at the site formerly housing Kmart.
Reports surfaced in early November that a contract had been finalized for the purchase of a portion of the Mayberry Mall shopping center where the Kmart store closed nearly a year ago.
This came on the heels of an announcement by a local Realtor that a company based in the Midwest was eyeing the purchase of the former Kmart site and possibly the rest of the shopping center plagued by ongoing structural problems.
There have been indications recently that Rural King, which is headquartered in Mattoon, Illinois, is the company involved.
An inquiry to Rural King seeking official confirmation of this was referred to the company’s marketing division, which did not respond to a telephone message.
However, the Rural King interest in the former Kmart location has since been confirmed by a knowledgeable local source who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Rural King’s targeting of the Mount Airy site coincides with a recent expansion campaign in the eastern U.S. which has involved taking over a number of closed Kmart stores. Rural King announced last week that it had bought an old Kmart building in Martinsville, Virginia, with former Kmart storefronts said to be compatible with Rural King’s needs from a size standpoint.
Only one Rural King store is located in North Carolina at present, in Morganton, according to a map on the company’s website, which also shows another in Radford, Virginia.
Rural King promotes itself as a family owned and operated retailer launched in 1960, which has more than 100 stores in 12 states. It claims to offer 60,000-plus products, including livestock feed, farm equipment, agricultural parts, lawn mowers, workwear, fashion clothing, housewares and toys.
One of its traditions includes supplying free popcorn and coffee to shoppers.
Along with the Rural King disclosure surrounding the former Kmart site locally, another development involves a decision by Mike Kohan, the present Mayberry Mall owner, to “finally” fund roofing repairs there, said the source speaking on condition of anonymity.
A leaky roof led to problems in the section formerly occupied by the Kmart store — which was condemned last spring — with similar issues occurring elsewhere in the building, except for a Belk department store that is separately owned.
Rust damage in the mall’s upper portion created a potential for collapses and a hazard also was linked to ceiling tiles deteriorating and falling. Additionally, rain water entering the structure through the faulty roof has caused mold, posing an environmental risk to occupants.
Kohan earlier claimed that he lacked the funds to put into an escrow account for a good-faith effort toward needed mall repairs as a condition of avoiding its closure by local government officials as a public health threat.
Presumably, the roof repairs Kohan has agreed to fund would correct structural deficiencies at hand and make the mall as a whole more appealing to any new buyer seeking to avoid the financial burden of those repairs.
In October, a 60-day period was set aside by local officials to allow negotiations for the sale of the remainder of Mayberry Mall to continue, in addition to the purchase of the Kmart space. That period ended Tuesday.
A special meeting has been scheduled for today by Mayor David Rowe and the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners regarding the mall.
It will begin at 5 p.m. in the council chamber of the Municipal Building.
“The purpose for this meeting is to update the mayor and board of commissioners on the status of Mayberry Mall,” says a notice for the meeting.
It is open to the public.
City officials, who have ultimate responsibility for dealing with the problems at the mall, were told in late September that if it were not repaired, they faced the option of ordering the shopping center’s closure or demolishing it at municipal expense. Or if desiring to keep the mall open to preserve the stores and jobs there, officials were advised they could have the building repaired, again at city government expense.
Earlier this year, Mayberry Mall numbered nearly 20 stores hiring about 100 people, although some businesses have closed since due to the continuing problems relating to its structural condition.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.