A Decade of Wooing Wins a Harlem Store for Target, by Stephanie Clifford, NY Times, August 13, 2009
Target’s first Manhattan store opened late last month in Harlem with great fanfare. The chain’s mascot, a miniature bull terrier, rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange. Miss New York, Doug E. Fresh and Jerry Seinfeld attended a pre-party. Crowds lined up outside the store, the largest single investment the company has made in any of its retail properties.
The opening, like most corporate debuts, left little to chance. But in this case, the preparations were extreme: nearly 10 years of calculated philanthropy and schmoozing across Harlem, an effort that Minneapolis-based Target has characterized as smart community relations but critics suggested was akin to bribery.
Long before the ribbon-cutting, Target had wooed notable Harlem residents with dinner parties, struck deals to carry exclusive gear designed by neighborhood luminaries, and sponsored prominent charitable projects and events, including the refurbishing of a school library and the sprucing up of a rundown lot near the store on 117th Street.
The goal was to avoid the pitfalls of Wal-Mart and other big-box retailers, which have run into stiff community opposition as they expand into big cities, considered the last frontier for growth for many of the largely suburban chains. Lately, Wal-Mart has also seen the value of community outreach: it announced a $20 million donation to Chicago-area charities three days before a critical vote this summer that cleared the way for a store on Chicago’s South Side.
Eric Dezenhall, a public relations consultant, said that while community work like Target’s in Harlem was a relatively safe bet, its long-term impact was not guaranteed. He pointed to the mixed success of other major outreach efforts by big corporations. [More]
East Harlem community left reeling by announcement of Target store closure, ABC7NY.com, September 28, 2023
EAST HARLEM, Manhattan (WABC) — It’s the end of September, but outside the Target store in East Harlem, it kind of felt like Memorial Day.
“I just got emotional,” said Lisa Rodriguez, a frequent shopper at the location. “The cashier just started crying and I had to give her a hug, cause it’s like we all know each other here.”
So many shoppers arrived at Target on Wednesday unaware of the business decision made by the popular retailer.
“Where are the people in the community going to go now?,” asked Kathering Griffin. “They would have to go to the Bronx.”
The East Harlem location along with eight other stores will close on October 21.
“I really feel sad because you know we come up here with the senior citizens to shop,” said Patricia Ryan, another fellow shopper.
In this tight knit community of Black and Latino families, where specialized mom and pop stores and street vendors line the avenues, Target represents values and convenience for general merchandise at an affordable price—all for people on a fixed-income and all within walking distance from home.
“You don’t have to go to Jersey. You don’t have to go downtown. You walk down the block, you come to Target, it’s like home,” said Martiza Fabian. “And it’s so sad that it’s going.”
Target blames theft and organized retail crime for the closures, adding that theft prevention measures—like extra security and locked up merchandise—have failed to stem the tide of thieves stealing from the store.
“They are coming in and they are taking,” said frequent shopper Denise Niles. “They don’t care, and they are losing big time.”
So, so much to unpack in these two stories, nearly 14 years apart. As a Target shareholder, I’m happy the store has abandoned the Harlem location, which—as the New York Times said—took a decade to woo before finally coming to fruition in 2009, and just barely more than a decade to convince to shut down, courtesy of black and brown shoplifters.
But, of course, white people were to blame for there being no Target in almost exclusively non-white Harlem from 1999-2009, and whites are to blame for the Target closing in 2023.