Daily photo s by Jonathan Palmer|
Shoppers jockey for position to be among the first patrons Tuesday at the new Target store at The Crossings of Decatur.
Decatur shoppers hit Target
opens doors at The Crossings
By Eric Fleischauer
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"Woo hoo! I get to go to Target!"
That was my daughter, Sarah, as I tried to find a space in the jam-packed parking lot at The Crossings of Decatur for its anchor store's "silent opening" Tuesday night.
It wasn't especially silent. Hundreds of people were poised at the uncut ribbon as if it were a starting line. A large crowd of local dignitaries and red-shirted Target employees squeezed perilously between the ribbon and the unopened doors.
Flashes went off constantly, and the picture-takers were not photojournalists but impatient customers-to-be. They weren't just going shopping; they were going to Decatur's Target on opening day.
A teenage girl behind me was jumping up and down, hollering on her cell phone.
"I'm at Target. No, in Decatur! It's about to open! I can't wait!"
But then the Austin High School jazz band went quiet, the crowd of Target employees waved their Target-logo balloons, and the crowd hushed. Mayor Don Kyle thanked a whole bunch of people.
"I'm going to the Starbucks as soon as they cut the ribbon," my daughter whispered, "if I don't get trampled on the way in. Do I have to go to school tomorrow if I get trampled?"
The mayor thanked some more people, and store manager John Randolph — an Athens native who has opened several Target stores throughout the Southeast — thanked more people yet.
"Wow, this is amazing!" Randolph said on this evening of exclamation points. "Thank you, Decatur!"
The crowd squeezed closer and closer to the starting line.
A Target employee announced the store is donating $250 to each of seven local charities. The crowd applauded, and squeezed closer.
Then Kyle and Randolph cut the ribbon and the race was on. Some snatched shopping carts with a practiced yank, others went without, but all forged deep into the 125,000 square feet of retail wilderness.
Not a shelf was empty. The floor gleamed and the employees smiled. And, somehow, it grew from the red soil of Decatur in just 12 months and two weeks.
"The team is running on adrenaline right now," Randolph said. "They worked hard to get it ready."
"Is that not gorgeous," cooed a saleslady, holding a turquoise pendant out to her first customer.
"I love that purse."
"Get three pair, honey. That's a good price."
"Two slices, please." (There's even a Pizza Hut Express in this Target.)
Over the loudspeaker came Randolph's voice, alerting the frenzied shoppers that the new-store sales don't begin until the grand opening Sunday.
It didn't seem to matter.
"I've been looking for one of those."
"Henry, just one. And don't touch."
My daughter emerged from the throng, happily sipping a vanilla latte.
"I love their logo. And their dog," she said, talking rapidly as she guzzled caffeine and sugar.
"The dog. Dad, it's in all their ads."
They sell dogs?
"Probably," she said. "Look at this place. They sell everything."
Not dogs, as it turns out. You have to go next door to the new PetSmart for those.
Aside from dogs, about all this Target doesn't sell are the few things that separate it from a SuperTarget. No deli, no produce, no fresh meat. Lots of other groceries, though, and everything else imaginable.
Still, it's a shopping store. As the minutes ticked by and the crowd got tighter, my daughter asked if the people were getting bigger or she was getting smaller.
It's a marvelous and spacious store, but my enduring memory was just before I fled through the exit, against traffic.
An elderly man walked purposefully to a display recliner, shaking his head. He sat down rigidly and clenched the recliner arms.
His wife, slightly disgusted, scurried off to women's apparel.
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