Editor's Letter: Things Have Changed

By
Abbie Westra, Editor-in-Chief, Convenience Store Products

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Well, this is strange.

I think this as I stare through the just-buffed windows of the first-ever Target- Express store and out at what was once my college boyfriend’s back porch. It was a dumpy place, as most college housing was back then. My mom cringed as we drove by it during my junior year. “You don’t ride on that motorcycle, do you?” asked the woman who was picked up by my future father with the line, “So, do you like motorcycles?”

An entire block of similarly dilapidated party houses was razed to make way for TargetExpress’ landlord, The Marshall, a relatively luxurious student housing complex, opening this fall, with an indoor pool and sand volleyball court. This is Dinkytown, the bustling neighborhood across the street from the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis. It’s where a young Bob Dylan lived, performed at beat coffee shop 10:00 Scholar and recorded the “party tape,” one of his first known recordings. It’s where I trudged to class, lived off 50-cent-bagel days at Bruegger’s and sold my CD collection to pay for spring break.

I wonder what Dylan thinks if he ever walks past his old stomping grounds, like I am now.

TargetExpress is a slick 20,000-square-foot concept curated to the college students and other residents in this densely populated neighborhood. (See slideshow below.) The company has already announced plans for another store in St. Paul and three in the San Francisco Bay area.

Walk in, and to the right is a line of checkouts resembling those found in the updated Walgreens and CVS formats, with one long line feeding to the next available cashier. To the left is a “Target loves Dinkytown” sign designed by an alum, and in front of you opens a walkway leading to 30 aisles (15 per side) of nearly every product an urban dweller would need: plates and silverware, fans, socks, curling irons and DVDs.

The back of the store is dedicated to grocery, with a fresh-food area similar to the PFresh concept found in traditional Target stores. Other sections include a pharmacy, office and school supplies, and a tech section selling iPhones and Beats by Dre gear.

I am amazed by the evolution of this neighborhood, and with it, the experience of the students. The trend toward “luxury student living” had just broken ground when I was in school here 11 years ago; now the neighborhood is littered with the campus equivalent of urban high-rises. One of the world’s most powerful retailers is creating concepts just for these students. They are the coveted millennials, just as I am, but our experiences and expectations are light-years away from one another. Or rather, they are developing the same consumer expectations at 19 years old as I am at 33. What will that mean when they’re 33, walking around Dinkytown waxing nostalgic for the Five Guys and sand volleyball courts?

Across the street from TargetExpress once stood the House of Hanson, an 80-year-old independent convenience store run by four generations of Hansons. Their business had already fallen by 50% in the few years since CVS had entered the neighborhood. It was demolished last year and replaced by another six-story student housing complex.

As an elder millennial, I’m at once eager for the day a TargetExpress opens on my block, and sad to see the Hansons pack it up. As Dylan himself said in any number of ways, here’s your future—make a change or get out of the way.

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