When he was a child, Greg Cunningham spent his days in his parents’ butcher shop in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. His father Calvin had bought the business from its previous owner after having worked there since he was a child. Cunningham did the same, helping his mother run the business after Calvin passed away.

You might say business is in his blood.

ON TARGET—Marketing Group Manager Greg Cunningham, who grew up playing basketball at Reizenstein, will return to celebrate the grand opening of the East Liberty Target store July 24.

“Those are some of my most vivid memories. I’d never seen animal blood before,” he said. “I used to play in the freezer with those huge carcasses hanging there. My father would pull one down and carve it up. Who knew that’s where hamburgers came from? He was like a magician.”

Now, nearly 50 years later, Cunningham will be in a different part of Pittsburgh celebrating some magic that he had a hand in—the July 19 ribbon cutting and the July 24 grand opening of Target’s 140,000 square-foot East Liberty store.

As Target’s group manager for strategic partnerships & lifestyle marketing, part of his job is making sure new stores mesh with their communities by building and maintaining relationships across local constituencies. He did so when Target opened stores in Chicago, and just last year in Harlem. But this one is special.

“On a personal level, I grew up 10 minutes away,” he said. “I used to play basketball at the East Liberty Presbyterian Church across the street, and at Reizenstein with Ozanam. My brother still lives near there. So it’s gratifying to see the company I work for and respect helping my neighborhood.”

Cunningham’s sister Gail Felton, who still lives in the Hill, said her brother coming back for the grand opening completes the circle.

“Mom will be turning 81, and our sister is coming in from New Jersey, so it will be a sort of mini-reunion,” she said. “He was in town a few weeks ago, but I was at the Urban League meeting at Nemacolin and didn’t get to see him. So this will be fun.”

Cunningham was in town to host a “thank you dinner” for the local partners who helped make the Target project a reality. Some who attended included Mona Generett from Dollar Bank, Malik Bankston from the Kingsley Association, general contractor Steve Mosities and members of the East Liberty Presbyterian Church board.

Kevin Mickens, workforce facilitator for East Liberty Development Inc., who also attended said it was nice to see Cunningham doing the legwork, being an ambassador, and showing the company’s commitment to the community.

“Hey, he thanked me for my work. So that was nice,” said Mickens. “And he’ll have the opportunity to thank all the political and community leaders at the ribbon cutting.”

Louis “Hop” Kendrick, who has known the Cunninghams since he was a child, said seeing Greg return sets a good example for the community.

“It’s a perfect example of what our children can become. Too often we don’t reflect on those who’ve done well,” he said. “I haven’t seen him in years but his mother and I used to walk to school together–and to this day, she refuses to call me ‘Hop.’ But when I see someone like (Greg) come back, his family is right to be proud.”

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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