PALMDALE – A former Kmart store that had been vacant for more than three years has its first new tenant – a Wickes furniture store. The Wickes store, which held a grand opening Thursday, occupies about 42,000 feet of the 122,000-square-foot building that had been vacant since the Kmart discount chain retrenched in 2002. “We’re excited to have them as the major anchor that the center will revolve around,” said Dan Otter, one of the development partners. “It’s a great site. It stayed dormant too long.” Putting a store into a remodeled “big box” building is something of an experiment for Wickes, said John Disa, company president and chief executive officer. The company usually uses free-standing buildings but was attracted to the site because of its freeway visibility. “It’s an excellent addition,” Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford said of the Wickes store. “Furniture is a much needed commodity in a fast-growing community.” Kmart closed the store in 2002 as it shuttered stores nationwide that were in leased buildings, like the one in Palmdale, built in 1994. Kmart’s bankruptcy proceedings slowed down the process of getting the building sold and reused, officials said. Jim Skeen, (661) 267-5743 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week The Palmdale store, which will employ about 35 people, is part of an effort by Wickes to expand its presence in Southern California. The store is the 12th to open in California and its 33rd overall. “This is a great area for us because of the growth – and it is an underserved market,” Disa said of Palmdale. The building on 10th Street West north of Rancho Vista Boulevard is part of a retail complex called Sierra Commons that is being developed by Grae Palmdale Rancho Vista LLC, the same firm that developed the Amargosa Commons shopping center. Negotiations are under way with two other potential tenants, Otter said Thursday. Those talks have not progressed to the point where names can be disclosed, he added. Plans for a Mimi’s Cafe restaurant for the shopping center have fallen through. The development team has scrapped plans for a free-standing restaurant building and will instead have two buildings, totaling 12,000 square feet, built for restaurant or retail use.