Retailer’s decision to close stores in Black neighborhoods draws anger, suspicion
By Erick Johnson
It’s a decision that has some Black folks sad and others fuming.
Target, the retailer that has earned billions off discounted, household items, announced on Tuesday, October 30 that it will close two stores, in Chatham and Morgan Park, on the South Side.
As residents in those Black neighborhoods reacted in disgust, Target reaffirmed plans to open two stores in Rogers Park and Logan Square – two predominately white neighborhoods on Chicago’s North Side.
Target, which is based in Minneapolis, said the two stores that will close on the South side are among six locations nationwide that will be shuttered.
But Black residents who shop at Target question the retailer’s decision to close stores that had been successfully operating in two of Chicago’s predominately Black communities for over a decade. There is also concern that the decision will further increase the inequity of national businesses on the South Side compared to North.
In a statement Target said the closure of its stores in Chatham and Morgan Park “follows a rigorous annual process to evaluate the performance of every store in the portfolio and maintain the overall health of the business.”
That explanation is not enough for some Black shoppers who spoke to the Crusader during a visit to the store in Chatham. Some believe that Target is closing the stores because they are in predominately Black neighborhoods that are not as affluent as those on the North Side. And Target’s plans to open two stores on the North Side has stirred more skepticism among Black shoppers.
The Target store in Chatham anchors a shopping center that includes a Walgreens, smaller retail stores and fast food restaurants. Without Target, it’s uncertain whether those business will survive on their own if traffic dramatic decreases after Target closes.
A day after Target’s announcement, a Crusader reporter visited the Chatham store at 8560 South Cottage Grove and spoke to several shoppers, many of whom blasted the retailer for its plan to close the store. Some had not heard the news of the impending closure.
Sheila Johnson said she cried when she heard that the Chatham store was closing.
“They’re not thinking about us. They don’t give a damn,” said Johnson.
“I’m sad. It’s so disappointing,” said Melissa Murray, who said she shops at the Chatham store at least three times a week. “We can’t keep nothing. Don’t close both of them. At least keep this one. They’re taking everything away from us on the South Side. Where do we supposed to go?”
Randy Johnson said he has been shopping at the Chatham store since 2009.
“I was disappointed because this is where I get my medicine,” he said.
Johnson said he is skeptical of Target’s decision to close the store.
“This is terrible,” said John Meyer. “This community thrives on having this store in this particular spot. This Target affects all of these businesses. It’s not a good decision at all.”
In response to Target’s decision, Alderman Roderick Sawyer (6th Ward) released the statement, urging the retailer to keep its stores in Chatham and Morgan Park open.
“Target’s closing of the Chatham store will be a devastating blow to our community,” Sawyer said. “It is disappointing that this giant corporation is not willing to address the serious management issues at this store, and to give our community more time and investment in order to continue the economic recovery and to increase its store’s profitability.”
Of the three remaining stores on the South Side, the Target store in Chicago’s Hyde Park is the closest. It’s five miles from Chatham and 12 miles from Morgan Park. The Target stores in McKinley Park and Archer Heights are even farther.
About 120 employees work at the 126,000-square-foot store in Chatham, which opened in 2002 after plans fell through to open one in the South Shore neighborhood. About 115 employees work at the 128,000 square-foot-store in Morgan Park. That store opened at the start of the Great Recession in 2008.
Target says those employees who are in “good standing” are eligible to transfer to other Target stores. But several Target employees in Chatham who spoke to the Crusader said the nearest locations are still too far. They also said the other stores do not have enough positions for the many employees who will soon be out of job.
Target spokesperson Jacque DeBuse said Target does not consider proximity of other stores before they decide on closing stores. Sales figures from stores in Chatham and Morgan Park were not released during Target’s announcement.
“This is based on the business and is not about a neighborhood or geography,” DeBuse said in one news report. “As you have seen, Target remains committed to Chicago, as we’ve been remodeling stores across the metro (area) and continuing to open new stores to serve new guests.”
In the past several years, Target has been expanding in the Chicago area. The retailer has plans to build stores in Rogers Park and Logan Square on the North Side by the end of 2020. Target says it plans to upgrade its 18 Chicago-area stores this year and more than 1,000 nationwide by 2020.