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New Target Doesn’t Hit the Bull’s Eye

But It Scratches an Itch I’ve Been Trying to Reach for 17 Years

Target has landed in Santa Barbara | Credit: Paul Wellman

At this point, it would be hard to calculate which is greater: the number of words I’ve written about Target over the years, the number of purchases I’ve made at Target, or the number of hours I’ve spent pining for a Target right here in my hometown.

I’ve hosted a Target haiku contest and investigated the freaky phenomenon that compels some shoppers to relieve themselves in Target loos. But it all started 17 years ago when I wrote a column professing the unwholesome addiction my friends and I have to the retailer.

“Under the guise of hunting for Midol and a greeting card, we have been known to absent-mindedly knock toile throw pillows, sleek travel mugs, chunky-heeled boots, ceramic dog bowls, quick-dry nail polish, and purse-sized cartons of goldfish crackers into our carts—and then double back around to have another go,” I confessed. “Some of us are wearing three Target items as you read this.”

I was so overwhelmed with feedback from like-minded local bull’s-eye fanatics that I started an online petition to bring Target to Santa Barbara. When I sent it to the corporation and local city councils after three months, it had amassed 4,000 signatures, including that of then mayor Marty Blum.

“We see it as cruel and unjust that our otherwise fabulous community should be denied the stylish knick-knacks and affordable must-haves reaped by so many other, and frankly less deserving, burgs,” my letter read. “We expect our leaders, and those who have made Target the dazzling retail temple that it is, to overcome any challenges of property location, traffic congestion, and misplaced anger by those who naively consider themselves Target’s competitors (the undersigned never have, and never will). Wouldn’t you rather we spend our money here — and with what we assure you would be shocking frequency and zeal—than leave town once a month to drop a bundle in some neighborhood an hour away?”

And now, at long last, our wish has come true. … So why do I expect to walk into the paltry clothing department at our tiny Target and see a ¾-sleeve raglan graphic tee sporting the slogan “Be careful what you wish for, bitches” in a cheeky retro font?

I was one of the thousands of curious shoppers who shuffled through the new two-story Target on the corner of State and La Cumbre when it opened last week. In fact, I was there three times in its first six days and spent … well, just never you mind what I spent; you should see the fabulous bracelets I nabbed.

It’s a beautiful space streaming with sunlight—an improvement over most fluorescent-lit Targets. And who doesn’t love a cart escalator? But parking is the kind of ghastly problem you see at the end of action movies, when you’re thinking, “There just is no solution! How can they possibly survive this contrived plot point?!” Also: There seems to be somehow too much—and yet not enough—stuff crammed into our compact new shopping shrine.

Curation is what Target has always excelled at; it’s what distinguishes them from their lesser Lame-Mart competitors. Rather than offering a vast mess of low-quality dreck, they only stock a modern, budget-minded suburbanite’s essentials — inexpensive must-haves and on-trend treasures: everything you’d need to survive the zombie apocalypse while maintaining gorgeous skin, staying up on your best-seller reading, and choking down gluten-free, non-GMO, vegan, kosher protein bars with coconut-lime kombucha.

But our mix, on tall shelves flanking narrow aisles, is a particularly odd assortment. Kettlebells and yoga blocks. Fifty-plus colors of craft paint. Oodles of wine but no shoes. Two dressing rooms (not male and female—literally space for two humans to simultaneously try on clothes). And, I kid you not, 25 kinds of nicotine gums, lozenges, and patches.

This last touch is weird — but it’s also kind of appropriate. Our token Target is a lot like a Nicorette patch to a cigarette addict: No one’s pretending it’s as satisfying as the real thing. But it’ll feed that monkey on the backs of junkies like me and keep our sweats and tremors at bay … until the full-sized Target opens in Goleta this fall. 

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