You may or may not remember, but Kmart for the longest time was a Detroit area company (until it moved after it bought Sears). Founded here in 1897, and incorporated in 1912 with 85 stores as S.S. Kresge, it was a retail behemoth in its heyday.

So to the music and how it came to be on the internet. This guy, Mark Davis, worked at a Kmart in Naperville, IL in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Every month, corporate HQ mailed a cassette tape to all the stores. These cassettes were chock-full of easy-listening elevator music and in-house advertisements (KMRT radio, after all). Those of us old enough to remember wandering the aisles with family might have some memories to share if you take a listen, and many loved brands mentioned aren’t here anymore.

Davis saved all 56 cassettes and uploaded them to

Here’s what he had to say:

OK, I have to admit this this is a strange collection. In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, I worked for Kmart behind the service desk and the store played specific pre-recorded cassettes issued by corporate. This was background music, or perhaps you could call it elevator music. Anyways, I saved these tapes from the trash during this period and this video shows you my extensive, odd collection.

Until around 1992, the cassettes were rotated monthly. Then, they were replaced weekly. Finally sometime around 1993, satellite programming was introduced which eliminated the need for these tapes altogether.

The older tapes contain canned elevator music with instrumental renditions of songs. Then, the songs became completely mainstream around 1991. All of them have advertisements every few songs.

The monthly tapes are very, very, worn and rippled. That’s because they ran for 14 hours a day, 7 days a week on auto-reverse. If you do the math assuming that each tape is 30 minutes per side, that’s over 800 passes over a tape head each month.

Finally, one tape in the collection was from the Kmart 30th anniversary celebration on 3/1/92. This was a special day at the store where employees spent all night setting up for special promotions and extra excitement. It was a real fun day, the store was packed wall to wall, and I recall that the stores were asked to play the music at a much higher volume. The tape contains oldies and all sorts of fun facts from 1962. This may have been one of the last days where Kmart was in their heyday – really!

One last thing for you techies, the stores built in the early 1970’s (such as Naperville, IL Ogden Mall Kmart #3066, Harwood Heights, IL #3503 and Bridgeview, IL #4381) originally had Altec-Lansing amplifiers with high quality speakers throughout the store. When you applied a higher quality sounding source, the audio was extremely good. Later stores had cheaper speakers and eventually the amps were switched out with different ones usually lacking bass and treble controls.

A little fun fact: Our Daily Detroit office is now in a former SS Kresge/Kmart headquarters building near the Masonic Temple (they then vacated the city for the suburb of Troy in the 1972) by architect Albert Kahn.

So it’s only appropriate to put this mix on blast the rest of the afternoon.

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