BLAKE OVARD/NEWS-SUN The Hobbs Kmart is officially closing in mid-April. Several retailers are working with the property owner about moving into the shopping center.

Kmart in Hobbs is closing its doors for good, leaving Hobbsans with nothing but memories of the once legendary retail giant.

The liquidation sale started Tuesday and will go through the store’s final day in mid April, according to the onsite liquidator, who identified himself as only as Ray.

“Correct, (the Hobbs Kmart location) is (closing),” Ray said. “We start today, and it will be closed by mid-April.”

Manuel Martinez, a manager at the store, would not answer any questions about the store closing.

Kmart, which has had a store in Hobbs for several decades, has offered customers a wide array of goods. According to their Yelp listing, “For nearly 50 years, Kmart has provided its customers competitive prices with a huge selection of inventory. Offering exceptional products ranging from clothing to electronics & video games, Kmart also offers a great selection of popular brands…”

Tuesday morning, Larry Costello, PR Director for Transformco, said the company declined to comment on the Hobbs location closing. Transformco is the parent company of both Kmart and Sears.

“We’ll decline comment,” Costello said in an email inquiring about the closing. He also would not answer News-Sun phone calls to his office.

Transformco was formed in Feb. 2019 to acquire the assets of Sears Holdings Corporations, (the owner of Sears and Kmart) out of bankruptcy.

Late last week, MSN and USA TODAY both reported a list of more than 100 Kmart and Sears store closings compiled using local media reports, job postings for positions at closing stores and state layoff notices. Both New Mexico Kmart locations — Hobbs and Farmington — were on that list.

Even though the company officially declined to comment about the fate of the store, and the MSN and USA TODAY articles, locals took to social media last week to sound early alarm bells about the embattled retailer permanently closing its doors in Hobbs.

But, with Kmart closing, it is just the beginning for a new group of retailers excited to bring their brands to Hobbs. And, the 90,000 square feet location being vacated is a prime location for that retail, at the five-points intersection.

Several retailers are in what’s known as “lease stage” with the property developer, Pegasus Group, of Albuquerque. The Kmart center is currently listed as The Hobbs Junction on Pegasus’ website and the retailers listed as occupants of the new development on the website are T-Mobile, Ross, Marshall’s, Ulta, Famous Footwear, and PetSmart.

Lease stage means a company is interested in being in the new development, but have not yet officially signed a lease.

But, Pegasus Group Senior Vice President Steve Lyons said Pegasus Group has worked with many of these retailers before in other areas, like Ross in Carlsbad, Ulta in Albuquerque, and PetSmart in Rio Rancho, and Pegasus represents some of the retailers, like Marshall’s and Famous Footwear in other retail developments. Pegasus Group is also handling the re-development of the Farmington Kmart.

“They are really a familiar group (of retailers), but they are also the people who have stood the test of time,” said Lyons. “This is a great group of retailers, surviving both good times and bad over the last 10 years.”

And, even though the Economic Development Corporation of Lea County (EDCLC) has not been involved directly in negotiations between retailers and Pegasus Group, they have been made aware of those retailers who have shown great interest in coming to Hobbs in the area Kmart now occupies.

“We really appreciate our partnership with Pegasus (bringing new retailers to Hobbs),” said Missi Currier, president and CEO of EDCLC. “We at the EDC have not been part of these conversations, but they are at the point where all that’s left is signing the lease. (The retailers) have said ‘we do want to come to Hobbs; we like the property; we think it would be good.’”

And, it makes sense those retailers do want to come to Hobbs. Hobbs is in a economic and population boom, and those retailers have a track record of coming into, and thriving in, communities closely matching where Hobbs is as a community.

“There’s no reason for us to believe right now that won’t go through unless one of the companies back out,” Currier said about the possible retailers moving into The Hobbs Junction, after Kmart moves out, and the building is remodeled.

Not only will the main shopping center building be re-developed, but there will also be a new pad site at the front of the property, which will include the only tenant who has already signed a lease — T-Mobile.

“We’ll have a pad site out front, between (Pizza Hut) and CVS. We’ve got T-Mobile with a signed lease out there and we’ve got 3,700 (square feet) left to fill in the out parcel,” Lyons said.

Pegasus expects the re-development to start quickly once Kmart moves out in April.

“(Development) will hit the ground running in May, and we would expect delivery to tenants first quarter of next year,” Lyons said. “Which, for re-developing 90,000 feet is pretty quick, because you never know what kind of surprises you’re going to get.”

And, there are still some retail spaces available in the new development, Lyons said.

“It’s a very, very exciting re-development in a great economy right now,” Lyons said. “Everything was contingent on the future of Kmart, but now that future is set.”

Blake Ovard may be reached at managingeditor@hobbsnews.com .