Target is closing some stores in predominately black areas of Baltimore for not being financially successful and, of course, they’re taking a lot of heat for it. What the article doesn’t tell is the amount of crime which probably took place at the store. When I worked for an automotive parts supplier, I did inventory at one of their inner city stores. The shelves were bare from shoplifting and anything of value had to be locked in the office. The black employees who worked that store told us to make sure we left before it got dark out.
BALTIMORE — When Target announced that it was opening a store in Mondawmin, a predominantly Black neighborhood in Baltimore, a city struggling with crime and poverty, it seemed like a ticket to a turnaround.
And from the start, it was a practical success and a point of community pride. The store, which opened in 2008, carried groceries, operated a pharmacy and had a Starbucks cafe — the only one in this part of Baltimore’s west side.
People came from across the city to shop there, helping to soften the Mondawmin area’s reputation for crime and the looting that followed protests over the 2015 death of Freddie Gray, who was fatally injured while in city police custody. As an employer, Target seemed to cater to the community’s needs, making a point of hiring Black men and providing an office in the store for a social worker to support the staff. Elijah Cummings, the congressman from Baltimore, was known to shop there.
But in February 2018, with almost no warning or explanation, Target closed the store.
Residents, especially those without cars, lost a convenient place to shop for quality goods. And a marker of the community’s self-worth was suddenly taken away.
“To open a store like Target in an African American neighborhood gave this area legitimacy,” said the Rev. Frank Lance, pastor of Mount Lebanon Baptist Church in Mondawmin. “When the store closed, it was like saying, ‘You are not worthy after all.’”
Three years later, the store remains empty, and its closing still stings Mondawmin residents and Baltimore officials, who had expected the store to help their revitalization efforts in the area.
Many national retailers have faced criticism in the past for failing to open in Black and poor communities, creating food deserts or a lack of access to quality goods. In Mondawmin, Target invested in a struggling area, but the outcome was almost more disheartening: The company ultimately decided that, despite its social goals, the store was not financially successful enough to keep open.
The closing is a sobering reminder of the realities of capitalism in a moment when corporations are making promises to support Black Americans, saying their commitment to racial equity is stronger than ever.
This year, Target made a highly public pledge to help Black communities nationally in the wake of George Floyd’s killing in the retailer’s home city of Minneapolis, vowing to spend $2 billion with Black-owned vendors and other businesses.
In a statement in response to questions about the Mondawmin location, a Target spokesperson said closing a store was a “last resort” and happened only after “it’s had a consistent history of underperformance, following several years of investments to help it succeed.”
The company pointed out that it has rebuilt and revamped stores in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Minneapolis and Oakland, California, that were damaged during protests last summer and that it was opening stores in other diverse communities across the country.
In many of these new and refurbished stores, “we’ve seen early progress” in their performance, the spokesperson said. She said this was part of the company’s “long-term strategy,” which involved “listening to local guests and offering experiences that are welcoming and better represent their needs.”
Like other big-box retailers, Target has closed numerous stores over the past few years, in both white and Black areas, as it has built out a wildly successful e-commerce business and cut other expenses.
But as in Mondawmin, closings in some of those Black neighborhoods have hit their communities particularly hard.
In 2019, Target shut two stores in predominantly Black neighborhoods on Chicago’s South Side as the company made plans to build a new store on the wealthier and mostly white North Side.
“They were like a thief in the night,” said Carrie Austin, who has represented parts of the South Side on the City Council for 27 years. “They were here one day and then, boom, gone the next.”
In Milwaukee, city officials only recently found a company to occupy the building vacated five years ago when Target closed its store in Northridge, an area with a large Black population. The building’s new occupant is a cold storage business, though, not another retailer as local leaders had hoped, said Chantia Lewis, a city alderwoman.
In the majority-Black city of Flint, Michigan, Target closed one of its two stores in January 2016, around the time a state of emergency was declared because contaminated drinking water was endangering local children and after years of disinvestment by businesses in the city.
Target has no immediate plans to open stores in those areas, nor in Mondawmin.