Having worked for Kmart since 1980, Luzann Garcia, 61, holds the close-knit employee family dear to her heart. Garcia, who retired in 2019, started at the Gilroy location as a full-time cashier before moving up the ladder into human resources for the last 13 years at the Hollister Kmart, one of 96 stores that closed this month.
As the HR rep for the Hollister location, Garcia met every single employee who passed through the now vacated building at 391 Tres Pinos Road. Kmart employees throughout the years included local high school students, college students, first-time workers and others with experience moving up to supervisor positions.
For Garcia, Kmart served as a second home that allowed her to provide for her family. It also provided an opportunity to work in town, less than two miles from her children and later her grandson.
“When your children get sick it’s nice to know that you’re only a few blocks away,” Garcia said about not commuting out of the county for work. “You can go and pick them up or check on them if they are at home.”
After 13 years at the Gilroy Kmart, she transferred to the Hollister location, where she helped out during the grand opening in the mid to late 1980s. Working at the Hollister Kmart didn’t come without challenges. Garcia said the store went through a phase of feeling like a ghost town when Target opened in the late 1990s.
“They thought we were going to close back then,” Garcia said.
Despite years-long rumors that Kmart would close, and occasionally having to deal with a rude customer, Garcia’s main takeaway of her years with the retailer is the relationships built inside the building.
“I’ll mostly remember it being more fun than misery,” Garcia said. “It’s more that you built relations with the community, the families and the people you work with.”
Not only did Garcia have the opportunity to be near her children as they grew up, she also helped youth in the workplace learn about accountability, timeliness and a strong work ethic. In doing so, she gave the initial Kmart training tour to multiple generations of families that passed through the retailer. The closeness of employees helped create a “Kmart family.”
“Everybody was pretty tight-tight,” Garcia said.
And, like a family, Kmart employees, especially those who worked there for over a decade, shared experiences such as marriages, graduations, births, baptisms and deaths. Garcia said she can only hope that those who lost their job can land on their feet.
“We used to say that if you could work at a Kmart, you can work almost anywhere,” Garcia said.