With a crowd that included community partners, the developers and neighbors from the adjacent business corridor, the East Liberty Target opened to rave reviews from the invitation-only visitors. Among those invited, Gerald W. and Alma Speed Fox wasted no time.

“Alma loves it. But she has a walker and likes to go everywhere,” said Gerald Fox. “It’s nice, but it’s too big for my mind. I like a 5 & 10 where you can see from one end to the other. I had to leave her.”

ON TARGET—Sidney Stinson assists Torey and Nia Stevenson with some of the produce in the new East Liberty Target store’s grocery section. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

State Rep. Joseph Preston was in Harrisburg for the July 19 “soft” opening but stopped by a few days later and was pleasantly surprised by the traffic at the 147,000 square foot building that sits where his former district office once sat.

“I’ve never been so happy to be evicted,” he said. “When we started talking about this seven years ago, no one thought it would happen. And here we are; jobs, diversity of income and convenience. Residents can now walk to a major department store. They haven’t been able to do that in 40 years.”

Store manager Dave Melocchi said the response continues to be high a week after the opening, surpassing projections.

“We’re getting a lot of foot traffic,” he said. “I’d equate it to pre-Christmas type levels. It’s been that busy. And the response to our produce section has been vibrant. Sales there are significantly higher than forecast.”

The East Liberty Target is the only one in the area with an in-store grocery, stocked with fresh meat, fruit, dairy and produce, as well as frozen and prepared foods.

Barber Ron McGinnis from Garfield said the grocery is comparable to other chains.

“If it weren’t here I’d be going to Walmart. It’s definitely more convenient,” he said. “And I’m all for something that’s creating jobs for the area.”

Torey Stevenson and her daughter, Nia, who were back in East Liberty from Maryland for a family reunion said she loves the store.

“I came into town (five days earlier) and I’ve been here every day since,” she said. “Good thing I’m leaving tomorrow.”

The employees are enjoying it too. Most are young, African-American, and primarily female, but not all.

Spencer Cordeiro, from Murrysville, said it’s fun working at Target, even if he’s stocking pink “Hello Kitty” lunch bags for back-to-school shoppers.

“I’m the team leader for electronics, so I’m in charge of about six team members,” he said. “I’m working two morning shifts and three evening shifts. I used to work a lot of retail in New York City, so this is nice.”

Another thing the employees like, said team member Marilynn Gettings is the bank of windows along the top of the back wall that lets in natural light. In addition to the grocery and the regular clothing, electronics, sports departments, the East Liberty Target also has a Starbuck’s in the upper lobby, which can be reached by elevator or escalator from the first-floor parking garage.

(Send comments to cmorrow@new­pitts­burghcourier.com.)

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