Eager shoppers line up early Sunday morning for the grand opening of a new… (Dan Krauss, For The Times )
The grand opening of a Target store in downtown Los Angeles — and the prospect of freebies for the first shoppers — dragged a crowd of locals out of bed Sunday morning.
By 7:30 a.m., about 100 people — many clad in sweat pants and rubbing sleepy eyes — were lined up outside the front doors of the store, tucked into the Figat7th shopping center.
Standing at the head of the line was Louis Salazar and his brother William, who had been waiting outside since 2 a.m. They were up early, anyway, to watch the space shuttle Endeavour on its way to Exposition Park.
"This Target is so close to where I live, and I really wanted to be here to check it out right when it opens," said Louis, 52, who is living on disability. "I'm trying to get the good deals and anything they give away."
The doors promptly opened at 8 a.m., with red-shirted sales associates handing out cloth shopping bags filled with snacks and toiletries to shoppers streaming inside.
Alicia Chen, 32, pushed a cart filled with eggs and bread while checking out the aisles. Chen, who works in business development and marketing, said a lack of shopping options forced downtown residents to drive outside the neighborhood just to buy household necessities.
"I have been chanting for October 14th for a long, long time," Chen said with a laugh. "We just don't have this type of store here. We have Ralphs, but Ralphs is for food and doesn't really offer clothing or gifts. So now we can keep the spending in downtown."
The downtown location is one of the retailer's smaller-format urban concepts, dubbed CityTarget. At 104,000 square feet, the store is a fraction the size of a SuperTarget and carries goods geared for city dwellers. Think more air mattresses, less patio furniture.
Target is also a key component of a $40-million upgrade of Figat7th, now complete, which added a wide staircase leading from the sidewalk to the middle level of the three-story mall. The goal was to enhance the connection with the streets around the intersection of 7th and Figueroa, said Bert Dezzutti, senior vice president of landlord Brookfield Office Properties Inc.
"The vision was to create a unique destination shopping center that doesn't exist in downtown L.A.," Dezzutti said.
Along with Target as the anchor tenant, the mall has signed leases for about a dozen clothing stores and restaurants that will open in the coming months, including gourmet sandwich chain Mendocino Farms and athletic retailer Sport Chalet.
All the upcoming changes excited Torlecer Sombright, a 31-year-old translator who had bemoaned the dearth of neighborhood shops since moving downtown a few years ago. Sombright said she "snuck" out of her apartment Sunday morning while her family slept to be among the first to see the store.
"I just want to walk down the street to my local store and pick up anything I need," said Sombright, who called Target "the Nordstrom of discount shopping."
"I love Target and Nordstrom so much," she said with a laugh, "I would have their babies."