Fight against South Park TargetExpress continues

By Dave Schwab

A grass-roots community group and a nonprofit grocers association have joined forces to oppose a TargetExpress store proposed to go in the remodeled Gala Foods site on the corner of Grape and Fern streets.

Community activist group Care About South Park and Mark Arabo, CEO of the Neighborhood Market Association (NMA), are lobbying against Target’s proposal, claiming the corporation’s plans threaten area small businesses.

“We don’t want [Target] there,” said South Park spokesperson Sabrina DiMinico, who added community opposition isn’t anti-Target.

“I shop at Target,” DiMinico said. “But we don’t want a Target in South Park.”


Gala Foods is slated to be converted into a TargetExpress (Photo by Hutton Marshall)

DiMinico said South Park is a community that has nurtured its local businesses from the ground up. She argued the addition of a corporate store like Target, which is publicly traded and primarily beholden to stockholders, poses a threat to the neighborhood.

“When large-format retailers come in, they drastically change the community and have negative impacts, taking dollars out of our local economy,” she said. “Our preference is to have an independent grocery store in there and we know that some are interested.”

Arabo agreed.

“The NMA represents small-business owners throughout California, and many of our members sit directly in South Park,” he said. “They will be adversely affected if a TargetExpress moves forward. This is something we need to stop, or at least limit, to protect family-owned businesses.”

Arabo said Target has no interest in protecting small business in South Park.

“The small-business owners and neighbors have defined a unique image within the South Park,” he said. “Target threatens to not only hurt business owners, but the very personality of this amazing community. There are also additional concerns with traffic in the area.”

The property owners shut down the Gala Foods business in mid-October and leased the existing building at 3030 Grape St. to Target Corp., which plans to reopen it in July 2015 as a TargetExpress, a condensed version of a typical Target store.

On his Facebook page, Councilmember Todd Gloria, who represents South Park on the City Council, said he’s met with Gala property’s owners to discuss their lease with Target and their future vision for the parcel.

“After operating Gala Foods since 1988, they decided, for financial and personal reasons, that they no longer could continue and put the building for lease,” Gloria said. “While they understood the desire of the community for specific retailers, the two interested companies that were prepared to enter into a lease were Rite Aid and CVS.”

During lease negotiations, Gloria said he was told by property owners that Target arrived with an unsolicited proposal to lease the land and building for a new concept that was going to fit into the current building and provide grocery and pharmacy services.

“Based on the interested applicants, property owners believed this was the best opportunity for the community and better met the needs of current customers,” Gloria said, noting Target signed a lease with the property owner.

Gloria added that the property owners are responsible for maintaining the lease agreements with the other current tenants on the site: Captain Kirk’s, Marisco’s Seafood and the recycling center. The three locations and the Gala Foods property itself were cited late last year for 14 city code violations. Outstanding violations must be resolved prior to a new business operating on the Gala Foods site.

Gloria also said the lease with Target does allow for the property owner to control the northern portion of the site. Property owners have also expressed interest in constructing an additional commercial building on the northern portion of the site, but such plans are still preliminary, according to the architectural company hired by the property owners.

“Target is committed to partnering with local community, business and political leaders, as well as neighborhood groups, and keeping them informed as we move forward with our South Park TargetExpress store,” said Target spokesperson Kristen Emmons. “The TargetExpress store format is designed to fit into the communities that surround the stores, and part of ensuring that happens is listening to our local guests. While we are still in the early stages, what we’ve heard from the South Park community has already influenced our plans for the store.”

Emmons said some of the new Target store’s features will include:

  • A wider assortment of basic hardware supplies, an unmet community need
  • Locally commissioned artwork inside the store
  • No Starbucks inside the store, acknowledging that a local coffee cart is a popular neighborhood fixture and a gathering place for residents
  • Organic produce sourced from California whenever possible
  • Maintaining the building currently on the property

“Based on feedback from the community, we will not make architectural or structural changes to the exterior of the building, and will make updates to the interior,” Emmons said. “We will play up the building’s natural light by removing the existing window blinds. Additionally, once the store opens, we will continue to apply things we’ve learned from the community, such as adding baking supplies, belts and sunglasses based on guest feedback.”

“There’s nothing we can do to hold them to any of the promises they’ve made,” said DiMinico, adding Target has not been forthcoming enough with their research data on how the new development will impact traffic in the neighborhood.

“We were blindsided by this whole thing happening,” DiMinico continued, noting the project is coming in under the radar and hasn’t been properly publicly vetted. This is a business that’s going to come in and drastically impact this community, bringing increased traffic and really changing a lot of things about the neighborhood.

“Granted, it’s private property, but the community has the most at stake here. We should have a say in what happens in our neighborhood.”

Arabo of NMA said it’s not too late to change Target’s plans.

“Measures can always be put in place to stop a corporation from entering a small neighborhood,” he said. “But, a community must unify and stand behind the principle of preservation to do this. I’ve partnered with Care About South Park to do just that. To unify the community, and work to create a South Park free from corporate influence and interest.”

Arabo said numerous small-business grocers have attempted to purchase the Gala Foods location.

“What I want is for South Park to maintain its uniqueness, its image,” he said. “Any small independent grocers would fit right into the natural landscape of the neighborhood.”

Discussing Target opposition’s next move, Arabo said, “Whatever it may be will have the entirety of South Park for support. Our work has only just begun.”


—Contact Dave Schwab at

 Correction: This article originally stated that Target Corp. plans to put a Starbucks in the South Park location, when in fact Target representatives said there are no plans to do so. We apologize for the error. 


  1. Bae Little says:

    I don’t know why Arabo thinks he has any say in what happens in MY community. Having lived here for longer than Arabo is old, and knowing that he lives in East County, it seems he is inserting himself in the community for no reason other than to boost his future political profile. Just google him about Target and South Park: he’s all over the internet with YouTube and comments in the UT and VoSD. What’s up with Arabo, the El Cajon resident, claiming to know what is right for South Park???

    Ms. DiMinico is in marketing; she works, as she always has, for a corporate chain store. No one I know in South Park knows her, and she doesn’t seem to have any real influence. Sometimes marketers don’t know when to stop stop trying to sell and idea.

    I look forward to Target Express, as do hundreds of my South Park neighbors, for many, many reasons.We will be able to walk to the store to pick up many personal and household items and will be able to pick up/return items bought from Target online.

    Contrary to Arabo’s claim, the Hirmez family made it clear that they could elicit no interest in a grocery store owner to take over their concern. Target is the next best thing, and meanwhile, I go just a few blocks away to the other Hirmez grocery store, Millers.

    The news-seeking handful of rabblerousers such as Arabo and DiMinico are NOT the only voices in south Park. Even the local business group is supportive of the Target. Arabo and DiMinico will not stop Target from locating the new Express here. It’s going to be a great success.

    Also, I think Uptown shit was reported recently by Todd Gloria Target that no Starbucks would be inside the new Target.

  2. Laurence Peery says:

    I remember years and years ago when this opened as a Safeway — locals were impressed that the doors had automatic opening and closing devices; and the kids used to delight in going in and out multiple-times just to see them open and close. Unless they’ve changed the lay-out of the streets in that area it’s a bad location for ANY high-traffic volume store. And as for a Target Express, that makes as much sense as a Target in Canada. If they couldn’t do that right, how will they deal with a complicated neighborhood like South Park?

  3. B. Getzel says:

    Unfortunately, few independent grocers can make it these days. Should the residents of South Park care if the grocery is independent or corporate, as long as it provides the goods that people demand? Why would a Target Express, in the same size store as the prior Gala, generate any more traffic than Gala? Ditto if an Albertsons’s or Ral[h’s (both corporate) could be convinced to go to that site. Its the use that should matter to the neighborhood, not who owns the store.

  4. Kate Callen says:

    It’s sad that pro-Target people who post on news sites keep maligning those who oppose the South Park store (including nearly 2,000 petition signers). If you are so certain this project will happen, you should be confident instead of angry. And it’s puzzling that Target now says there will be a Starbucks inside the store. If it’s true, they are already reneging on a promise to the community that they have stated publicly and repeatedly.

  5. Hi Bae, just want to clear up a few things since you don’t seem to have your facts straight. As President and CEO for the Neighborhood Market Association, Mark Arabo is protecting the interests of his members who have businesses in and around South Park. All of the small businesses in South Park should be concerned. Target’s primary goal is to maximize profits for its stockholders. It is a publicly traded corporation with more than 1,800 stores across the US, and it’s naïve to think it will have any long-term allegiance to our little community or our small business owners. It is highly probable that the very Target reps who are making claims and promises to our community will not even be there in 5-10 years. Those reps have already stated they will put none of their “promises” in writing.

    I’d like to know where you’re getting your information about me since you and I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting and you clearly state no one you know, knows me. My profession is irrelevant and your information is inaccurate. And Mr. Hirmez has not been honest with the community. Other grocery stores were interested and they still are. Mr. Hirmez would like us to believe that Target is our only option but it’s not true.

    We are not a few rabble-rousers. We have collected more than 2,000 signatures on a petition opposing the TargetExpress. Contrary to your accusations about me personally, my motivation is simple and honest. I love this neighborhood and a TargetExpress threatens to destroy the very things that make it so great. There are many people in the neighborhood who feel the same way and we will continue to stand up for what we believe in.

  6. […] In South Park, the anti-TargetExpress group, Care About South Park, have finally revealed themselves (they demand “transparency” from Target yet hadn’t previously identified their […]

  7. Amy Wallen says:

    As a South Park resident owning a home just three blocks from the Gala Foods site, I am extremely concerned about a corporate chain moving into my neighborhood. I, too, find it odd that those who are pro Target are so angry in their statements. A Target would do so much damage to the integrity of our little village. We have such a reputation of being so unique and community-oriented, and all of that would disappear. I do not know Ms Diminico either, but I do agree from what I have seen in my life, that the folks we are speaking to from Target don’t give a damn and there is no validity or stake in what they say. It’s a CORPORATION. Not sure why that hasn’t gotten through the pro-Target heads. This is not a corporate town. That’s what people like about South Park. Our property values will go down, our uniqueness will disappear. And traffic: when the folks in Golden Hill, North Park, Normal Heights and other nearby neighborhoods want to come pick up a few supplies, Fern will soon become worse than University Ave in Hillcrest.

    I lived in Del Mar village back in the 90s. The cute little beach village with the quaint bungalows and artsy residents and the unique shops, all of that were what made Del Mar unique. Then one day Banana Republic moved into the plaza, and next thing we knew the houses became mega mansions, Harvest Market moved in next, then Starbucks, then other chains. The streets became so crowded one local lady was even run over and killed. The area is just a big impersonal tourist trap with expensive homes and nothing particularly unique or distinguishable. It’s all about who can impress whom. So, I moved to South Park.

    I’m hopeful we can keep South Park unique by keeping Target out. I also just don’t understand why the pro-Target folk are so nasty. Maybe that just makes me want to be even more anti-Target. I don’t want nasty people in my neighborhood. Please tell me what Target does for me that a local supermarket wouldn’t do instead? Then tell me why a Target would be better than a local supermarket?

  8. kevin marks says:

    I’ve lived on Edgemont Street since 1998 and oppose Target coming into this community.

  9. Karen Lewis says:

    As 35 year residents of the South Park community my family and I are opposed to any and all chain stores and their attempts at bringing their stores here. The very essence of the uniqueness of our community needs to be preserved and what better way than through small businesses and entrepreneurship.

    Once you invite a chain store in it opens the door for more and once that occurs there is no going back. Our streets are safe now but I shudder, and frighteningly so, to think how our neighborhood will change if a TargetExpress is opened bringing not only increased traffic but many, many outsiders who do not live in nor respect our community.

    I have the confidence that as a community we can come together to find a satisfactory solution that allows us to remain true to the preservation of our unique neighborhood.

  10. Nancy says:

    PLEASE don’t damage our precious neighborhood by bringing a corporate Target store in. It just does not fit with the flavor of our little community. It definitely would generate more traffic than Gala. We have owned a house within three blocks of Gala for 22 years and dread to think about all the extra cars on our little street. Please don’t do it! All my neighbors feel the same way.

  11. L.Lowes says:

    Having lived in South Park for fifteen years, it came as an unpleasant surprise to learn that Target was slated to move into the Gala site. Even more surprising is that anyone would expect South Park to welcome a big chain to the heart of their neighborhood. We had a handful of independent businesses nearby when I moved in: Santos, Sparky’s, Mazara, The Big Kitchen & let’s not forget that we had a hardware shop which closed. I didn’t move to this neighborhood because of all the great local shops, at that time there were relatively few. I chose this neighborhood because I love old homes, tree lined streets to go for walks, and the suggestion of a small town just outside of the city. I would not choose to move into a neighborhood with a centrally located Target.

    B. Getzel wondered why Target would generate more traffic than Gala, I am grateful that Amy Wallen addressed that query. Residents of all of our surrounding neighborhoods would drive in to shop at Target, I’ve never heard of anyone driving in from a different neighborhood to shop at Gala. The increased traffic would make South Park streets more dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists, we have become a great spot for bicycling events and shops. We also have Albert Einstein Academy with children walking to and from every day, our Grape Street dog park is frequented by most of our dog owning residents. Having Target appropriate traffic would diminish the character and safety which South Park residents were drawn to in the first place.

    I don’t disparage the property owner’s right to lease out their own property and/or make a profit. However, they do have a responsibility to take the local communities concerns into consideration, as their location is paramount to the success or failure of their property. The local community is what has supported the Gala site over the years, I am sure that we would all be more than happy to continue to support various non-chain endeavors in that location. The fact that the focus has continued to be on either an independent grocery or corporate chain, is not creative or thoughtful. The Gala site has much potential beyond those two options, I can imagine a center of artisan booths thriving there, a bit like what was achieved in OB. I do hope that business and residence can communicate and come to an understanding which is agreeable to both parties, it is always a bad idea to become unwelcome within your own neighborhood.

  12. Susan Cunningham says:

    My husband and I frequent the South Park area expressly for it’s local shops,unique restaurants and small town community appeal.Placing a Target store in this location will dramatically destroy the charm and ambience that brings business and visitors to South Park.

  13. Melissa McKinstry says:

    We’ve lived in South Park for 10 years and we value the small businesses here and events such as the South ParkWalk-a-bout that bring the community out to enjoy and support those small businesses. There are plenty of strip malls in San Diego and two nearby Target stores. Why not preserve the integrity of one of the few remaining small, charming, quirky communities, and leave the strip malls and their traffic where they are?

  14. Max Stromberger says:

    Let me preface this by saying I’ve been a 12 years resident and 6 year homeowner in South Park.

    I’m having a hard time with this one. Personally, I oppose a large chain store moving in. 30th St and South Park has positive momentum in a direction towards small business and community. Target does not fit in with this at all. I don’t shop at Target regardless of how close or far they are and don’t agree with them moving into a community that in principle disagrees with them being here. It seems disrespectful and greedy of the owners of Gala to invite Target into the same community that built them. There is a certain amount of duty and responsibility to the community when you own the largest and most central piece of property in South Park. Especially when that community is the one that supported you all along. It feels like a betrayal.

    On the flip side, we do live in a capitalist society and people should be able to do what they want with their property as an owner, and with their dollars as a consumer. Mandating that the owners of Gala do something that isn’t profitable for them doesn’t work. Ultimately, we vote with our dollars, and if Target isn’t meant to be here, the community will show them that by not shopping there. Target will really have to show me they are in support of the community if they want me to shop there.

    Complaining without offering solutions does nothing. If Target really is moving in, they should sponsor a weekly or monthly farmers market and community market in their parking lot. It would show some respect to the community they are moving into, feature other local businesses, give us an opportunity to shop for local food, and offer a venue for the talented local entrepreneurs to showcase their work. It would be a community event that would invite congruent people into the neighborhood and keep with our theme. I would take advantage of an opportunity like that to showcase my woodworking and sell records and vintage stereos. Target will be doing something positive for themselves by increasing sales that day and offering an opportunity to feature the store and what they offer.

    I don’t trust Target at all to take responsibility for the community they are moving into. They are profit driven and not community oriented. If they do like I expect them to, which is to not honor any of the promises they are laying down now, I will not be shopping there and will discourage all my neighbors from shopping there. What’s up with Starbucks moving in. First they weren’t and now they are? I will never shop at Starbucks, ever.

  15. Michael ONeal says:

    I guess I just don’t get it… A grocery store for an area that badly needs one, maintaining the original building so as not to change the look of the area, a willingness to let all the vendors who currently operate in the parking lot stay…and a corporation that donates as much or more to the world as any (over 1B on education alone last year)

    To say you’re worried about traffic is to say “you’d prefer someone move in and fail”…Businesses need people and most people drive to the store.

    Give them a chance, if you don’t like it, don’t go and if enough people feel the same it won’t last. If you never want it to happen, simple solution… Create a “task force”…the easiest way to bring everything to a halt here in San Diego

    Emmons said some of the new Target store’s features will include:

    -A wider assortment of basic hardware supplies, an unmet community need
    -Locally commissioned artwork inside the store
    -No Starbucks inside the store, acknowledging that a local coffee cart is a popular neighborhood fixture and a gathering place for residents
    -Organic produce sourced from California whenever possible
    -Maintaining the building currently on the property

  16. […] do not support a TargetExpress in South Park [see “Fight against South Park TargetExpress continues” Vol. 6 Issue 2]. Reconsider leasing the property at 3030 Grape St. You have greatly overestimated […]

  17. Andi says:

    I’ve been a resident of South Park for only 5 years. Now I have to say, the family owned, quiet, historic, artisan & community aspects of South Park are what make it so wonderful. There is a TRUE community here. The fact that you can say a name and it’s a big deal if people “don’t know her” should say it all. You say any name in Hillcrest or north park or DT and nobody knows them. But in South Park so many of us do know each other. That alone should be an indicator of our community. The fact that people are surprised when the name of a member of the community isn’t recognized should be all you need to understand that it’s different here.

    A target express is profit driven, someone said it above. While profit is important in any business, we do want someone who is interested in protecting the quiet community we have here. Target will absolutely drive a lot more traffic into South Park, traffic our one street in/ one street out community cannot handle. Target will market the shit out of their new express stores, flyers and ads, plus when someone goes on google app to find their nearest store for a certain item, target has the name recognition that will drive them to this new closer express store.

    Granted Gala wasn’t ideal, but a grocery store without huge name recognition would be wonderful. Even a Wholefoods would drive traffic that our community just cannot handle.

    Truth is Gala failed because it wasn’t a place people went to do their weekly shopping. They never sent out mailers with weekly sales to the community, they didn’t revamp to supply a growing health conscious community, and they charged 10% too much for their quality of items. Plus the store needed a lot of work, better organization.

    With the right marketing approach and the right products being sold (similar products to Wholefoods or sprouts-including vitamins, even a hardware section), locally sourced organic produce AND weekly sales to drive community inside, a grocer could do a hundred times better than Gala was doing. It doesn’t have to be extreme shift like target to be successful there, but just enough to have people do their weekly shopping there instead of picking up one or two items. To basically everyone in the community that’s all Gala was — a great place to pick up a few things midweek. But it doesn’t have to be like that. There’s a lot of people here who would love to do all their grocery shopping right next door

    Regardless of what target says, it will always end up being about making the most money they can. When our community rejects them, they’ll flyer further away and bring in more traffic. The exployees will rotate and no one working there will be dedicated to keeping south parks unique community together. Not unless they think it’ll help their bottom line. I believe it will being traffic into our tiny streets, danger to our dogs and children, promote more crime & loitering, bring in addition of traffic lights, and eventually as people chose convenience (easy parking, quicker checkout, lower price for local art etc), will drive our small business into bankruptcy. Not to mention more chain stores who want to get in on the chain store boom of an up and coming small community. I agree it doesn’t need to be corporate or independent just something that either has stores in other communities so people won’t drive from all around (but instead serve our community only) or something with lower brand recognition/ more speciality that won’t bring people from the surrounding community.

    But I’d love to see a grocery store in there that South Park will go for their food. We basically all drive super far every week for our groceries because of the quality, organic foods, and healthier choices at sprouts or Wholefoods… but would do my weekly shopping around the corner if the price was comparable and the foods offered were the same. I’m positive I speak for a large portion of this community when I say many many would do the same. I’m sure if Gala came back with a real ‘marketing to community’ plan (instead of the previous no marketing or sales approach), revamped their offerings, send our mailers with weekly sales, & spruced up the light and lanes in that place, they’d do much better… They made changes but never really told anyone, and people never knew what they’d have or when they’d be open.

    Anyway I really hope we don’t get the target express. And btw about the pharmacy stuff, most pharmacies do mail order now. And if you need a hardcopy prescription then chances are cvs is on the way home from your doctor anyway. But a close, quick grocery store with good selection of affordable but healthy food really has no substitution. It’s why people here drive all the way to Sprouts and Wholefoods and spend way more money and time to do so.

  18. Daniel T Jones says:

    Cannot wait until I can walk to Target from my South Park home and get the necessities that I cannot get anywhere else conveniently in the neighborhood.

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