Monday night was bittersweet for more than a dozen former employees of the West Frankfort Kmart store.
The store, which has been a staple of shopping for several area communities, has closed its doors after more than three decades in business.
"All those years ago that we all met and worked together, we built some lifelong friendships," said Lorelei Stone, who began her career at the store. Stone now works at The Buzz in Benton and was an organizer of the trip down memory lane.
"We took one last picture of the old Big K," she said, "then got together at The Buzz for some food, conversation and lingering over old photo albums."
The group also took a tour of the offices and work spaces where their friendships began.
The parent company, Sears Holdings, announced plans in January to close 64 Kmart stores as well as 39 Sears stores nationwide. Those closings also included the Mt. Vernon Kmart and Marion Sears, one of the anchors of the long-struggling Illinois Star Centre Mall.
Four of those at Monday's gathering, Cleta Shirley, Lana Eubanks, Diane Bruce and Stone, were original employees when the West Frankfort store opened its doors April 30, 1981.