Valley News Business Writer

Published: 12/5/2020 7:36:44 PM

Modified: 12/5/2020 7:36:42 PM

WEST LEBANON — Plans for a Target store in West Lebanon are generating the kind of enthusiasm you used to see in the stands at a Patriots game.

“Yes!” cheered Suzette Bedson, pulling a fist pump outside T.J.Maxx on Saturday morning. “I won’t have to go to Keene anymore.”

Bedson’s reaction echoed hundreds of others’ on social media when word broke Thursday that a contractor has submitted plans to the city of Lebanon to demolish the interior of the former Kmart space on Route 12A to make way for a “small-format” Target store.

“Small-format” Target stores range in size but average around 40,000 square feet, about one third the size of the typical 130,000-square-foot Target store that the Minneapolis-based retailer has been rolling out nationwide at the rate of 30 new stores a year, placing them in urban areas and college towns where space is limited.

Bedson, a retired legal secretary who lives in Weathersfield, said she likes Target for “the variety” of products it sells, “everything from apparel, kitchen, gardening,” and for its reputation of keeping clean and well-organized stores.

“It’s going to be smaller version,” Bedson said, “But I don’t care. I’m just glad we’re getting one.”

The plans submitted by a Baltimore contractor indicate that the Target store would use about 86,000 of the 106,000 square feet that was occupied by Kmart, which closed in May.

Target spokesperson Aryn Ridge said via email, “We are pursuing the opportunity to reach guests in the West Lebanon neighborhood, but at this time, we’re not at a point where we can share any new store plans.”

Kmart, like parent company Sears, had once been a staple in shopping centers all over, but both retailers have seen their businesses eroded by Amazon and the rise of online shopping.

Some nearby businesses — at least those that would not be competing against Target — were hoping the popular retailer’s customer traffic might give them a boost as well.

Amber King, a stylist at Supercuts in the same plaza as the defunct Kmart, said that closing of Kmart and the pandemic have contributed to a falloff in customers at the hair salon. A new Target store would increase visits to the plaza, she said.

“We’re hoping. It’s been kinda slow,” King said. “This should be good.”

The arrival of Target and what happens at the Route 12A shopping plaza has a personal meaning for Croydon resident Richard Johnson.

Johnson, 78, grew up “literally right here,” he said pointing his hand at the parking lot of what is alternately referred to as “Kmart Plaza” and “T,J,Maxx Plaza” (the 22-acre, 191,000-square-foot shopping plaza is called different names by the property owner and leasing agent).

“My house was near the entrance, and grandfather’s house was where the gas station used to be,” he said.

Johnson, who was headed into the bookstore BAM! with his wife, Diane, 77, to buy some holiday cards, said his mother sold what had been the family dairy farm along Plainfield Road in 1960 after his father died “to make way for the interstate.”

“There were cornfields as far as the eye could see. Now there’s only pavement,” he said.

But after she sold the family farm and moved to the Blueberry Hill neighborhood of Hanover, Johnson said his mother was heartbroken at the loss of a farm that had been in the family since 1930s.

“My mother could never come back here,” he said.

But the Johnsons said they thought a Target store would be a welcome addition to the area. Richard noted that his son had even requested a Target gift card as a Christmas gift.

“They have good quality stuff,” he said.

Contact John Lippman at [email protected].

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