Island Life: Where a Kmart is a Luxury

Written by: Mary Mac


I do not consider myself a high-end shopping snob. However, I will not lie – while growing up in New York City, I did, indeed, find my share of enjoyment browsing through the racks of gorgeous clothing at Bloomingdales, Lord and Taylor, and sometimes even the almighty Saks Fifth Avenue. Though admittedly, when visiting Saks, I would mostly gravitate to the very back, very hidden away section of any given department – you know, where the reduced displays are located. (I’m not sure that the word sale even exists in the Saks Fifth Avenue vocabulary – far too uncouth, I imagine. Reduced is just so much more civilized, dahling!)

Note that “browse” is the key word here. It was actually a rare occurrence that I was able to justify spending my hard-earned funds on the pricey, though much-admired, goods at Bloomies, L and T, or Saks. Macy’s (who held great sales almost weekly) was more my go-to department store and Target was the one I relied upon for most of my basic needs. But that all changed the day I chose to move to the British Virgin Islands, which has done the unthinkable and turned this loyal Target gal into an enthusiastic Kmart shopper.

*click for image credit

Did I really just say KMART, you ask? Indeed, I initially found myself raising my eyebrows and wrinkling my nose too at the thought of relying on the lowly Kmart for all of my shopping needs – that place is no Target! But beggars can’t be choosers. By law, there is no franchising allowed in the British Virgin Islands, which means – tragically – that there isn’t a single Starbucks (the injustice!), nor a KFC, nor a McDonald’s, nor a Wendy’s, nor a Subway, etc., etc., etc. You will not find a Target (OH NO!!), or Kohl’s, or Ross, or Walgreens either. The list of lack goes on and on.

There isn’t even a Kmart in the BVI. Therefore, I must be grateful that I at least have relatively easy access to one in the neighboring US Virgin Islands. I honestly never thought I would see the day that I would be so RIDICULOUSLY excited when a friend says that he/she is hopping on a ferry for the day to St. Thomas and my immediate reaction is, “Really??? Ooooh, lucky you! Are you gonna go to Kmart?!”

In the BVI, we do have a local “department store” or two that sells decent cosmetics and perfumes, as well as plenty of small clothing and shoe stores (although the selection is limited and, frankly, the clothing racks are filled with an abundance of polyester, of which I am allergic to – it makes my skin crawl and my stomach turn). We also have one very nice boutique in the center of town filled with fashionable dressy dresses (for those exceedingly rare island occasions when a dressy dress is actually needed) – but again, the selection is limited, and the prices are more often than not VERY OPR (Out of my Price Range!). So when I need to get a few pairs of cargo shorts, a few pairs of flip flops, some shampoo and conditioner, or my favorite mascara, I get all jumpy and crazy at the thought that a friend might be willing to pick up these necessities at the “Big K” on St. Thomas for me.

Suffice it to say, island life has transformed me into a reluctant Kmart devotee. I have actually shunned friends who have told me after the fact that they visited St. Thomas and did some shopping at the “Big K” without letting me know in advance (HOW DARE THEY!).

And proud of it.

And proud of it.

In other thrilling news, rock life has just gotten a major retail upgrade: there is now a Walgreen’s that just opened up on St. Thomas! I have yet to visit, but I am planning a trip for the sole purpose of shopping at the new store and have already started making my list. Oh, how island life has changed me!

Anyone care to join me? I’m so excited, I can hardly wait!

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14 thoughts on “Island Life: Where a Kmart is a Luxury

    • lol, Mary, I’m going to STT on Saturday…got a shopping list? And where is this Walgreens of which you speak? x

      • You haven’t been to the new Walgreens either, Sophie!!! it’s across the road from the “Big K” at Tutu Mall! I’m so JEALOUS! A full report when you return to Tortola!!

  1. Love your blog and could not agree more about how we become excited by shopping trips to places that we once would have never even considered. I love it that my priorities have changed and that I am happy with 1/10 as much stuff as I had before I moved to the island of Roatan and do not care if it is used or reduced. Life is not a fashion show. I see the poor people in their shacks and rags on their bodies and they continue to have smiles on their faces. Less is best.

  2. The Walgreens is AMAZING! I loved Walgreens back in Florida where I’m from, I would always get such great deals there, and it is also my pharmacy. Get a Walgreens Rewards card and use it every time you shop! It is in Tutu, right across from the Big K! So super convenient when you island hop on over to STT.

  3. Wonderful post Mary, I know exactly how you feel, I beg friends crossing the border to the USA to stop and buy me Key Lime gum ( or any other item I am craving that I cannot get on my side of the border ) & I am not afraid to beg & bribe 🙂
    I have not been to a Kmart in years ( they closed shop years ago in Canada ) and sadly, after less than 2 years here, Target-Canada went bankrupt a few short months ago 🙁 ………….
    I can only dream that a kmart or Target or even a Walmart (not a fan, but would shop there) would open up in Trinidad by the time we move there.
    Access to modern/NA products/businesses has improved over the years ( good and bad ), now when we are there , we can pretend we are at Starbucks by going to Rituals ( ).
    There are many NA fast food and restaurant choices ( McD’s, Burger King, Subway, KFC of course!, Pizza Hut, TGI Fridays, Ruby Tuesdays ) but these don’t entice us much, we don’t go to those places at home.
    I have always felt like I had to trek to Port of Spain ( the capital ) to seek out any authentic products of quality.
    So imagine my surprise when we went to the local mall ( for free wi-fi ), “Gulf City” ( which has been newly renovated, including a parking garage with a terrifying vertigo inducing corkscrew 2-lane exit/entry) and we walked past a MAC cosmetic store!!!
    I nearly fell over. I just could not believe my eyes! Now I’m not one for makeup, lip-gloss, mascara and maybe some cream eyeshadow is about as far as I go and even that rarely happens ( for example, we were back in Canada for over a month before I noticed I left my tiny make-up bag in Trinidad ), but seeing a MAC store , not even just a counter, it just made me think, wow, we’ve ( southern Trinidad ) made it!

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