A Lake Elmo husband and father of three credits the holiday spirit with inspiring him to spend more than $2,300 on a massive red “K,” the same one that for decades adorned the front of the Kmart on Lake Street in Minneapolis until the store closed earlier this year ahead of the building’s eventual demolition.
Jason Pieper outlasted all the others and on Tuesday won the two-week online battle for the giant metal consonant that drew 66 bids.
The 50-year-old real estate agent’s bill includes $1,925 for the K, with tax and auction fee swelling the bottom line to $2,339.41. And that does not include delivery.
“My wife was like, ‘What in the world? … That’s not coming to this house,’ ” Pieper said about two hours after the auction clock struck zero and his final bid for the 900-pound metal letter won out.
Pieper said he intends to retrieve the K next week, build a stand for it and “put it in our front yard and decorate it with blue lights,” in fond remembrance of Kmart’s decades of running Blue Light Specials that were called out spontaneously and accompanied by a flashing blue light on a pole.
“It will be a big Christmas ornament in our front yard” where visitors can gaze in wonder, take selfies and leave donations that the Piepers will turn over to a local food shelf.
The goodwill gesture, Pieper said, won over his wife. “ ‘OK, if you’re going to do something charitable, then I agree,’ ” he recalled her saying.
Pieper said he was in gotta-have-it-mode from the moment the K went up for grabs, recalling the many times he shopped there while living in Minneapolis and afterward while renting out residential properties he owned in the city.
“It’s a piece of Americana,” said Pieper, who intends to outfit it with casters so he can roll it in and out of storage each Christmas season. “No one else in the world has anything like it. … I was going to get it no matter what. I didn’t care. That thing was coming home.”
Speaking of getting it home, Pieper understands the sizable task before him in order to haul the K — which stands 9 feet tall, spans 11 ½ feet and is 1 foot thick — to his house 30 miles from where it rests in a city of Minneapolis warehouse.
“I’m working with a buddy of mine to pick it up,” he said. “This will be interesting to get it on a trailer.”
The Kmart discount retail outlet opened on Lake Street in 1977 in the middle of Nicollet Avenue, effectively severing the heavily traveled thoroughfare in the heart of south Minneapolis. A Supervalu grocery store also operated on the same 10-acre tract for many years.
For decades, the Kmart was among the most hotly debated buildings in Minneapolis, if not the entire Twin Cities. It was either viewed vital to providing reasonably priced essentials to many who had few shopping options or derided as a visual scar and a travel annoyance for motorists and mass transit.
The store had been scheduled to close by June 30 after the city bought out its lease in March, but the riots following the death of George Floyd while in police custody in May accelerated its closure.
As the building awaits its demise at a date yet to be determined, the U.S. Postal Service began renting out space last month for at least one year, operating as a temporary replacement for two south Minneapolis post offices that were destroyed in the riots.