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Target opens in Union Square amid discount chain’s fears over safety, organized shoplifting

BY MARY REINHOLZ | A long-awaited Target store has opened in Union Square after the giant discount retailer took over a 33,000-square-foot space previously leased for more than two decades by a Food Emporium supermarket at the base of Zeckendorf Towers.

The new store, at 10 Union Square West, has none of the amenities, like a sushi bar or a custom cake-making bakery, that Food Emporium offered its customers. But it has plenty of groceries, including New York strip steak, along with Target’s general merch, from toys to houseware products, and a CVS pharmacy, plus same-day delivery. Daily hours are from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

An armed police officer, at left, was inside the store. (Photo by Mary Reinholz)

New York Mayor Eric Adams, who was at the Oct. 17 ribbon-cutting with City Councilmember Carlina Rivera, touted the new Target’s “iconic” location as one that would bring jobs and foot traffic to the spot, which is right next to a busy subway hub on E. 14th Street. The renovated place was vacant throughout much of the pandemic, after the Minneapolis-based Target reportedly bought out Food Emporium’s 16-year-lease from its owner, Key Food, and renovated the space.

Target declined to hire Food Emporium employees for its other New York stores when they were abruptly terminated in May 30, 2021, according to a weekend manager at the time.

Members of the store’s security team. (Photo by Mary Reinholz)

Now, however, jobs apparently are on tap here. Signs inside the entrance announce the Union Square Target store is seeking part-time hires — described as “team heroes” — starting at $18.25 an hour. It’s a nice figure for a nationwide operation that has lost sales to theft and “organized” shoplifting, including at the Target in East Harlem, at 517 E. 117th St. Corporate Target shut the East Harlem location down, along with eight other stores in four different states, a day before the Oct. 22 grand opening of its Union Square store.

An unusually candid company statement explains, in part, that Target management “cannot continue operating these stores because theft and organized retail crime are threatening the safety of our team and guests, and contributing to unsustainable business performance.”

The Target includes a CVS pharmacy. (Photo by Mary Reinholz)

Target C.E.O. Brian Connell has noted an increased incidence of crime at the chain stores during this year.

Meanwhile, 96 of the chain’s stores remain open in the New York City market, “employing 20,000 team members,” Target trumpeted in a prepared statement.

Security at the Union Square store loomed large over the weekend and included a roving New York Police Department cop carrying a pistol in a holster at his hip.

“It’s New York, after all, and he comes when he wants to,” said a member of the store’s public safety team.

While the Avenue A Target, above, and the Union Square one do have some overlap in their merchandise, they also carry some different products from each other, too. (Photo by Mary Reinholz)

Kerwin Lazaro, the store’s director, repeatedly refused to answer questions on Oct. 29 from The Village Sun and referred this reporter to to find a media contact.

Earlier, a young female staffer explained that the grand opening was not particularly stressful for her because, she said, “I was trained at the Times Square” store. Asked if she had joined a union, she shook her head no. Target has resisted efforts to unionize.

The Union Square Target will have plenty of competition on its turf, including Whole Foods Market and a Trader Joe’s nearby on E. 14th Street. Farther east is another Trader Joe’s and a popular “small format” Target at the corner of Avenue A, plus, of course, the new Wegmans a few blocks south at Astor Place. The busy East Village Target has many of the same items as the much larger Target down the street at Union Square, including a large selection of trendy clothing.

“We have more clothing than they do now,” said an imposing security guard named Ernesto standing by the door and eyeing traffic diligently. “They have things we don’t have and we have things they don’t have.”


  1. LindaJ. LindaJ. November 8, 2023

    I routinely see people shoplifting at Target and at CVS stores! They’re not even subtle about it.

  2. Mary Reinholz Mary Reinholz November 8, 2023

    There’s a long self-service line at this starkly utilitarian Target in Union Square. But nearby is a desk staffed by very sturdy humans who comprise the store’s public safety unit. An armed NYPD cop drops by to check things out.

  3. Allie Ryan Allie Ryan November 7, 2023

    Curious whether the Union Square Target has human cashiers and/or self-service check out stations. I firmly believe if potential shoplifters had to face another human being to check out, shoplifting would decrease.

  4. Janet Wolfe Janet Wolfe November 7, 2023

    What’s happening to retail businesses is unnerving. Not only are many of them going belly up, but the remaining ones are struggling. Three of the 4 pharmacies in my neighborhood have closed in the last 2 years, and the remaining one has so many items locked up that it’s discouraging both to thieves and the regular customers who want to pop in and out but now have to wait for staff to unlock the case to access the desired item.

  5. Nataloff Nataloff November 7, 2023

    A fine, all-encompassing article that asks the right questions such as who’s handling safety and what about unions. Also, as JJ indicated (above), stores may be closing to cover mismanagement, but this is the result less of Amazon or marketing decisions than of corporate greed that has consolidated retail chains and must now retire immense merger debt. The slash-and-steal looters are on top of this. In other words, no one cause, but all of it bad for competition and the consumer.

  6. Mary Reinholz Mary Reinholz November 7, 2023

    CNN has also reported on the surge in shoplifting nationwide at stores big and small. Anyone who shops has likely noticed enhanced security at places like CVS pharmacies where ice cream and other popular items are under lock and key. Inflation probably has a lot to do with the increase. In any case, I don’t buy the theory that big box stores are using “shrinkage” as a cover for mismanagement when they close stores. Check out the National Retail Federation, which has reported huge loses due to theft.

  7. JJ JJ November 7, 2023

    There is not a significant increase in crime to explain Target’s woes or most any other retailer. Sure, there are isolated events that get wall to wall coverage on Fox News but a few research teams have analyzed the declining performance of store locations at many of these large public retailers. They are using inventory “shrink” (ie theft) as cover to close stores that are mismanaged and/or just getting disrupted by Amazon and other online retailers.

    CNN wrote about it here:

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