Biz Buzz: Sears and Kmart looking for tenants for their stores

Sears Holdings Corp. is looking for tenants to lease space in its network of Sears and Kmart retail stores, including those in San Luis Obispo County.

The county is home to one Sears store at the Madonna Plaza in San Luis Obispo and two Kmart stores — one at Oak Park Plaza in Arroyo Grande and the other on El Camino Real in Atascadero.

For several months, the retailer has been working on a plan to make its chain of department and discount stores more productive, according to an article published last week in the Chicago Tribune. It has established an online searchable database at SHC of thousands of Sears and Kmart stores available for sale, rent or partial lease as shops within the stores, the newspaper reported.

The move is designed to generate revenue from its real estate. Sears Holdings Corp. is the nation’s fourth largest broad-line retailer (one that sells a wide range of products), with about 3,900 full-line and specialty retail stores in the United States and Canada, according to the retailer’s website.

Kimberly Freely, spokeswoman for Illinois-based Sears Holdings, said Tuesday that its foray into commercial real estate is not new. The corporation has had a commercial realty department for “a long time” and has had licensing agreements with hearing aid and optical departments, as well as photo studios, she said.

Freely called the site a “convenience tool” for real estate agents and brokers, and said she was not aware of any potential tenants for stores here.

Sears’ first in-store deal, announced last Thursday, is with Florida-based Edwin Watts Golf Shops LLC, which will operate 12 shops inside Sears stores in Utah, New York, Virginia, Texas, Maryland, Illinois, Florida and Kentucky.

The retailer’s sales have lagged five years after billionaire investor Edward Lampert took control of the company. Wall Street had anticipated that Lampert would raise billions of dollars selling Sears and Kmart stores, but that never happened, according to the Chicago Tribune.

— Julie Lynem

Little Theatre hires artistic director

San Luis Obispo Little Theatre has appointed Kevin Harris, 34, as its first managing artistic director.

Harris has been serving as the theater’s executive director since December 2008, but the theater shifted its administrative structure to eliminate the executive director position.

Now Harris works closely with the board of directors to oversee both the artistic and business aspects of the community theatre.

Previously, he served as artistic director of Centerpoint Theatre Group in San Luis Obispo and Faulconbridge Theatre Company in New York City.

Harris’ appointment marks the first time since the theatre opened in 1947 that the board has established a formal, professional artistic direction in the group, which produces 10 to 12 full plays each year. Its season opens July 8.

— Julia Hickey

The Walmart Foundation is now accepting grant applications from California nonprofit organizations that need money to help fund their programs, particularly those that help the hungry or homeless or assist with education, job training and basic needs.

The minimum award for each grant is $25,000. Interested organizations can apply online at

— Julia Hickey