When work crews entered the long-vacant Kmart off U.S. 19 in Spring Hill, it didn’t take long for them to see the place had been ravaged by vandals.
Copper wire had been stolen. Electrical outlets were missing. Compounding matters, the roof leaked and the place was in a general state of disrepair — not unusual for a building sitting empty for 10 years.
It’s a daunting task for the new tenant, Rural King, to get the place fixed up.
The Illinois-based company submitted a remodeling permit to the Hernando County Building Department last week and expects to begin interior work soon.
Desiree Canora, co-owner of the Hernando County Farmers Market, can attest to the sad shape of the building.
“They had taken all the wiring and air conditioning — stripped everything,” said Canora, whose market sets up shop on a corner of the parking lot every Saturday. “We’ve seen a lot of it. Sometimes there would be a broken window.”
Canora said the market’s portable toilet has also been vandalized and even stolen.
There are also signs that a homeless community lives behind the building, she said.
Canora said some of the vandalism has decreased since the farmer’s market located there last year. Conditions should improve, she said, once Rural King moves in and the place is vibrant once again.
A tentative opening of Sept. 1 has been set, she said.
Canora said Rural King signed a yearly lease with the Farmer’s Market last week, ensuring she will be there at least through April 2014.
“They’re really going to work with us,” she said. “They seem to be great people and a great organization.”
Painting has already begun on the exterior and the parking lot will be repaved. She believes the co-existence of the market and Rural King will benefit both because it opens up more shopping opportunities.
“We’re all pretty excited,” Canora said. “I think it will help both of us.”
Rural King bought the property at 2450 U.S. 19 for $1.6 million. The Hernando County Property Appraiser’s site shows the land was valued at $1.5 million and the building valued at $725,000.
Rural King has 60 stores in seven states, mostly in the Midwest. When the Spring Hill store opens, it will employ 50-80 people.
The chain sells everything from clothes and pet food to car tires, hardware supplies and home furnishings.
Rural King will take over the entire 91,500 square feet of store space.
Kmart filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2002 and closed many of its stores — including one in Spring Hill and Brooksville — a year later.