New downtown Target offers student essentials near campus

Target has opened shop with a new small-format store in the Pedestrian Mall, and students are coming for everything from Keurig pods, hygiene products, and of course, alcohol.


Hannah Kinson

Customers wait outside the storefront of Target during the grand opening on Sunday, Aug. 16, 2020 in downtown Iowa City. The store had a soft opening four days earlier on Wednesday.

Clinton Garlock, News Reporter

As Target opens its first small-format store in the Iowa City area, students have expressed satisfaction at both its convenient location in the downtown district and the compliance of its staff with COVID-19 guidelines.

Yo, the beer selection here is awesome,” one group of students could be heard saying as they perused the store’s red and white aisles of produce, groceries, and dorm essentials.

University of Iowa graduate student Javi Quiroz and his friends said they originally planned to stop at other liquor stores downtown to pick up supplies, but opted to try out the new Target located at the corner of E Washington and Clinton Streets instead.

“It’s pretty convenient,” Quiroz said. “Anywhere you can go to walk and shop is awesome.”

UI freshman Isabella Cardenas lives on the University of Iowa campus in the residence halls, and said the store is convenient for students who need to shop but don’t have a car.

“It’s the closest convenience store that isn’t a CVS or Walgreens,” Cardenas said. “It’s a more accessible grocery store than going to Coralville for Target.”

New Pioneer Food Co-op Store Manager Kirsten Antill said she was not shocked when Target opened a small-format store in downtown Iowa City.

“It was not surprising,” Antill said. “I knew eventually the smaller format stores of the bigger retailers would make their way into downtown. I knew that eventually it would come into play.”

Antill added that she does not view Target as a direct competitor to her business, even though her store is only a few blocks away.

“The reason I don’t is because, for most Targets, grocery isn’t their main selling point,” Antill said. “It comes down to quality. Here, we’re local and our focus is the quality of our produce and our products. Not to put Target down — I don’t see that being a high priority [for them].”

She added that the COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult to gauge the effects Target has had on her store but does not believe there has been any major impact so far.

Both stores have taken precautions to keep their customers safe by requiring personal protective equipment for employees, offering masks to customers, and making accommodations for out-of-store pickup.

Kailtin Schager, store director of the downtown Target, said the store follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines 100 percent.

Target employees are required to wear face masks and gloves and will monitor the number of people inside the store, using signage and overhead audio messages, according to a store fact sheet. The store only allows 52 customers in at a time and has expanded its cleaning routines, it said.

Schager said no situation where a customer refuses to follow the safety guidelines has occurred since the store opened, and that everyone has been really gracious.

She added that she has been working to make her staff, a mix of students and Iowa City residents, feel supported during the unprecedented circumstances of 2020.

“We’re just trying to be really flexible with them,” she said. “We’re doing statuses once a week to just check in on them and make sure they’re doing okay — [making] sure they feel safe… [providing] any medical stuff. They’re amazing people and we want to keep them.”

Iowa City Downtown District Executive Director Nancy Bird said the downtown area has a nice community framework and a good mix of businesses that work hard.

“We’re at the doorstep of the University of Iowa,” Bird said. “So a lot of these things come together to build a very special environment.”