Friday, February 8, 2019

Tribune: For some South Side Chicago residents, losing 2 Target stores isn't just an economic blow

This is the month that the Targets in Morgan Park (just off of I-57 at 119th Street) have closed for good. It seems reading this recent Tribune piece it is still a sore spot for many in those communities, especially in Chatham where the Target had opened in 2002.
Store closings aren’t unusual. But for neighborhoods served by the Targets that have left — among them Chatham, South Shore, Avalon Park, Grand Crossing, Morgan Park, Calumet Park — it is a particular blow because of the lack of big-box, nationally recognizable shopping options. The community’s emotional response reveals just how the disparity is taken personally and its impact on the morale of a neighborhood.

As Target is closing its South Side locations, it plans to open at least one new store on Chicago’s North Side, deepening the emotional blow to residents south of downtown.

“Target filled a gap in terms of the quality of life for these communities,” said U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush of Chicago, who staged public protests and demonstrations to try persuade the retailer to stay. “Abruptly, that gap has been reopened, without any consideration, commentary or collaboration with the community at all.”

It’s no wonder that residents feel so upset that some are vowing never to shop at the stores again, Rush said.

“The emotional reaction stems from, here you have a community that has been underserved for decades, finally getting a small respect, some sense of quality of life for consumers and they felt they had options to buy and purchase goods,” he said. “They were kicked to the curb, so to speak. When will it stop? We befriended Target. We supported Target. And now we’re left without many options. (Residents) are mad, they are angry.”

Nedra Sims Fears, executive director of the Greater Chatham Initiative, said Target’s pullout “just feels like a deliberate disinvestment.”

“Target wouldn’t tell us how many people the stores served, the revenue,” she said. “We wanted to work with them. But we can’t work with an organization that is impenetrable. It feels like a betrayal.”

Target called the decision to close the stores difficult but one based on their performance. A company spokeswoman said at the time that the move was “not about a neighborhood or geography,” though she said the proximity of other stores was a consideration. She also said Target remains committed to Chicago.

A Target spokeswoman declined further comment Thursday.

But in the two South Side areas affected, the closings remain a sore topic raised on email discussion groups and social media, and at community meetings. When people talk to Fears about it, she reminds them of the many small businesses and locally owned stores that could use their support.

“We are not defined by one store,” Fears said she tells them. “Target gave our community some cachet. … It had an appeal. I believe we have some lovely boutiques in the area, and we will all come together and figure out what a replacement option will look like.”

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