This story was originally published in Newsday on February 4, 1999.
Kohl's Corp., a Midwestern department-store chain, yesterday announced plans to enter Long Island, purchasing the leases to six Caldor stores here as part of a deal to acquire 32 in metropolitan New York.
Kohl's, based near Milwaukee, is one of a dozen national retailers said to be interested in the assets of Caldor Corp., which last month was forced to liquidate after three years in Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Real-estate experts say Wal-Mart, K mart, Target and Lowe's home-improvement stores also are looking at Caldor sites, which total 145 in nine East Coast states, including 20 in this area.
Kohl's yesterday announced an agreement with financially troubled Caldor to purchase 32 store leases on Long Island and in Westchester County, New Jersey and Connecticut. Terms were not disclosed. Locally, Kohl's wants stores in Deer Park, East Setauket, Levittown, Melville, Ronkonkoma and Shirley, spokesman Gary Vasques said. "Our whole thrust is concentrated on the New York area and Long Island . . . we are not interested in the city stores," he said.
Under the deal, Kohl's also will buy the lease to a store in the Baltimore area. The agreement is subject to the approval of U.S. Bankruptcy Judge James Garrity Jr. Kohl's hopes to gain approval within the next two months.
"We would hope to open the stores as Kohl's in the spring of 2000," Vasques said. Remodeling wouldn't start until after Caldor conducts going-out-of-business sales, which are expected soon once a liquidator is selected.
Headquartered in Menomomee Falls, Wis., Kohl's has expanded rapidly across the country, largely by buying stores cast off by other retailers.
Founded as a grocery store 36 years ago by Max Kohl, the company has since shed its food stores and from 1973 to 1986 was owned by Batus, the British retailer that owned Gimbel's department stores. From just 40 stores close to its Midwest hub in 1986, the cross between a discounter and department store has grown to a chain of 214 stores in 22 states, (the Atlantic Coast to Kansas) generating sales of more than $ 3 billion a year.
About two-thirds of the merchandise found in Kohl's aisles is moderately priced clothing, with the remainder being home furnishings and shoes. Retail experts say Kohl's will be a competitor of both discounters like K mart and Target, and moderate department stores such as Stern's, Swezey's and J.C. Penney Co.
Meanwhile, Caldor continues to shut down its operations after nearly 50 years in business. It once was the dominant discounter in parts of the Northeast, including Long Island. Thousands have been let go from a payroll of 20,000, and the headquarters in Norwalk, Conn., and warehouses are being run by skeleton crews.
Caldor, with sales of $ 2.5 billion in 1997, was forced to liquidate after a disapppointing holiday shopping season that led some creditors to demand immediate payment. Company attorneys said Caldor is losing $ 20 million a week.