During a December protest against Target for not including more local labor on construction for its building in East Liberty, Community Empowerment Association founder Rashad Byrdsong also charged the huge retailer would drive local merchants, including African-Americans from the area.
However, many of the businesses nearby the Target location on Penn Avenue—the Visionary Performance Academy, Best Nail Designs, Best Nail, and Yan’s Chinese Buffet—serve niche markets or provide distinctive products and services the big box retailer does not.
|UNIQUE BUSINESS—Laptop Etc. owner Al Temo, with sons Junior, left, and George, said Target’s electronic sales will not compete with his sale and servicing of used computers and phones. (Photo by J.L. Martello)
Donald Jamil Brookins, whose Jamil’s Emporium has African textiles, art, drums, essential oils and natural healing products on Penn Avenue for 16 years, said his clientele includes customers from as far away as New York and Costa Rica.
He said while he’s not thrilled with another big, White retailer getting city subsidies when Black entrepreneurs like himself get none, he is used to it. And if it affects him at all, Target will probably help.
“Gentrification is happening everywhere and White money is coming back. But what God gives no man can take. I don’t fear them because I can outthink them,” he said. “It may even positively affect me because it will bring more people in.”
Even those whose businesses might compete with Target, said, if anything, Target will help.
Gary Schmitt, owner of Ace Athletic, said just by locating in East Liberty, Target will lend a positive impression to the neighborhood.
Any help is good help. Hey, the city wasn’t doing anything for Penn Avenue until they came in,” he said. “I’ve been here 20 years and people here want mom-and-pop and reliable. Will it cut into my business? Maybe. But I’ll take competition over another empty building any day.”
Todd Levine, owner of Mo-Gear, who like Schmitt across the street sells sportswear, said he doesn’t expect much change, one way or the other.
I doubt I’ll see any competition, maybe a few T-shirts,” he said. “Yeah there’ll be more traffic, but I expect people will park there and stay there.”
Jae Whee, who owns Penn Fashions, which carries women’s clothing said Target will benefit the neighborhood.
“It will be good,” he said. “It means more people coming in. It will be positive.”
Al Temo, owner of Laptop Etc., said although Target carries computers, electronics and phones, just as he does, it would probably benefit his business.
“Yes they sell computers and phones, but because we deal in refurbished equipment and repair services, Target is not really a competitor,” he said. “It’s going to improve the reputation of the neighborhood. They will bring an influx of customers, and that will be good for everyone.”
Target Representative Dennis Knopick said the company would hire 200 employees to staff the new 140,000-square-foot, two-story store. The grand opening is scheduled for July.
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