CHATHAM — Edith Mitchell gets her prescriptions at the Target in her Chatham neighborhood, and she usually finds a crowd.
So the 54-year-old just doesn’t get why her Target was picked for closure, one of two slated to close on the South Side on Feb. 2.
“I’m always in here, it’s always packed in here,” Mitchell said at the store Tuesday. “I don’t know what they mean by low sales because everyone is always in there. There’s line in there now. … I don’t see why it should be closing. Look at how many people are going to lose their jobs.”
A Target spokeswoman said the store at 8560 S. Cottage Grove and the Morgan Park location at 11840 S. Marshfield Ave. are two of the five stores nationwide picked to close because they’re not profitable.
The decision rocked the neighborhoods that have counted on the stores for years. Both locations are massive. The Chatham store, which opened in 2002, is 126,000 square feet. The Morgan Park store, open since 2008, is 128,000 square feet.
Target spokeswoman Jacqueline Debuse said the primary factors leading to the closure of both stores are performance and profitability, calling the decision to close “difficult.” Stores will continue to operate as normal until their official closing date on Feb. 2.
“Target follows a rigorous annual process to evaluate every store within our portfolio and we do that to maintain the overall health of the business,” Debuse said. “Typically, a store is closed after seeing several years of decreasing profitability.”
Debuse declined to release details on the stores’ performances.
Ald. Michelle Harris (8th), whose ward office sits across the street from the Chatham location, said she was “jolted and saddened by the news that Target will close five stores early next year.”
She said although the Target location is not within her ward, she will be working with Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) and the Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office to try to find a business to fill the space. But she made it clear the news caught local leaders off guard.
“South Side community leaders and public officials would be in a better position to act immediately and favorably to the news had the corporation’s executives in Minnesota given us more of a warning,” Harris said. “I fully understand they had to make a decision that is best for their entire retail system, but that doesn’t take away the sting of losing a business partner and more importantly, the loss of jobs in our community.”
All eligible employees at both stores will have an opportunity to transfer to other Chicagoland locations or accept a separation package, Debuse said.
The Chatham store employs about 120 full- and part-time workers. There are about 115 in Morgan Park, according to the The Chicago Tribune.
“This is always a difficult decision, our team is really important to us, Target always invest in our team and our team are the ones who are serving our guests and so we work really hard in these situations to work with each individual to help them transfer and to make the transition seamless,” she said.
Debuse said currently there are no plans for any new store, of any size, to come to Chicago’s South Side. Target opened a new location in the Hyde Park neighborhood in November of 2016.
“We are always looking for new opportunities to serve guests, especially in the Chicago market which is a priority area for Target,” she said. “We are continuously looking for opportunities to service guests in the Chicago area.”
Meanwhile, despite the closing of the two locations, Target is actively looking for seasonal employees.
Melinda Kelly, president of the Chatham Business Association, said she was “devastated” by the decision to close the stores. She said she reached out to the mayor’s office to schedule a meeting with Target’s corporate office to further discuss the possibility for keeping the stores open and/or delaying closures beyond February.
“It was a highly-visited store and after this long history for them to just abruptly call and say I’m closing in February is just kind of ridiculous,” Kelly said. “It’s also makes you wonder since they are closing every store in urban Chicago with the exception of Hyde Park, are you cherry-picking where you are going to have a Target store? If that’s the case, do the citizens of Chicago want to shop there?”
She said Chatham Business Association had a longstanding relationship with Target which included advocating for the company to come to the community and hosting hiring events at their Chatham office located at 800 E. 78th St.
“Ultimately, Target needs to think about the jobs they are eliminating,” Kelly said. “Like everything in our community Chatham is a resilient community, we are going to work diligently to figure out how to provide additional jobs. We are always looking to bring other stores. Hopefully, we can attract another retailer who appreciates Chicago to that store and create more jobs.”
Christine Ekwere, 30, a former Chatham resident shopping at the Cottage Grove location Tuesday, said she’s been coming there since she was little. She sees it as a disinvestment in the area.
“Since they closed the Target on 95th I’ve been coming here a lot so it’s an inconvenience for other people in this area.”
“There’s a Walmart on 83rd & Stewart but that’s the only one that’s close by,” she said.
“I don’t understand why it’s closing because every time I come it’s crowded,” she said. “I’m not understanding why they’re having low sales.”