The big red K from atop the doomed Lake Street Kmart began its second act Sunday as a shining holiday ornament in the backyard of a Twin Cities family's home.
Jason Pieper planted the 9-foot-tall and 11½-foot-wide consonant outside his Lake Elmo home in time for it to be dusted with a light snow.
The 50-year-old real estate agent had the highest among the 66 bids for the K in a city of Minneapolis auction that wrapped up on Dec. 1. He paid $1,925 for the K, with tax and auction fee swelling the bottom line to $2,339.41.
"And the Lake Street Kmart sign lives on!" Pieper said soon after illuminating the K with ground-level lighting.
"I'm getting so many calls and e-mails, it's insane," he wrote Monday in a text message, adding that he's received offers to buy the K. "[I] never knew this would get so much attention. I bought it for me. ... It's just so cool. Krazy with a K!"
Now you can even say it glows in all of its one-of-a-kind glory in Pieper's neighborhood, where others are lighting up these December nights with bulb-drenched trees and cartoon inflatables of the Grinch in a Santa sleigh and other characters.
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, it was among the most hotly debated buildings in Minneapolis — 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 street riots following the death of George Floyd in late May accelerated its closure.
With his wife's reluctant permission, Pieper took ownership of the 900-pound K last week, loading it onto a trailer at a municipal warehouse in north Minneapolis and pulling it roughly 30 miles to his garage, where he solved the mystery of the missing white "mart" that the letter had worn in sash-like fashion to complete the store's name.
"The sign got all covered in graffiti, so the city just painted it all red to sell it," he said. "[It] was fairly easy to trace the outline and freehand paint it. It looks awesome."
The U.S. Postal Service is now sorting letters and packages in the Kmart building, which the USPS it is renting for $30,000 a month as it awaits the structure's demise at a date yet to be determined. The Postal Service is operating there for at least a year to accommodate the loss of two south Minneapolis post offices destroyed in the riots.