When Target opened a new store in the East Village with great fanfare on Saturday, it thought that it was paying homage to the history of the neighborhood. But people who are part of that history felt otherwise, and Target has apologized.
As part of its opening for the store, on 14th Street and Avenue A, the company erected a facade in the style of CBGB, the rock club that hosted the rise of many seminal bands like the Ramones and Blondie but folded in 2006. Instead of “CBGB,” the awning read “TRGT” and “BANDS” in bold red lettering.
But the “bands” were Target-branded Band-Aids and exercise bands. The display windows showcased TRGT T-shirts, foam hands and a poster emblazoned with “The Resistance” — none of which were for sale.
In a statement, Target said, “We often host a one-day celebration that shows the neighborhood how excited we are to be part of their community.”
“We sincerely apologize if some eventgoers felt it was not the best way to capture the spirit of the neighborhood,” the statement continued. “We always appreciate guest feedback and will take it into consideration as we plan for future opening events.”
Musicians who were a part of the club’s heyday also reacted negatively. “I think it’s a pity that a teenager sees the Target store and thinks it’s all a cartoon,” Chris Stamey said in a phone interview. He estimates that he played at CBGB about 25 times in the 1970s and ’80s, both with his band, The dB’s, and as a sideman to Alex Chilton and Richard Lloyd.
“It really had the stink of the real,” he said. “Everybody was trying to find something new at that time. Nobody is trying to find something new at Target.”
Willie Nile, who was a regular performer at CBGB in the same era, recalled auditioning for the club’s owner, Hilly Kristal. He got his attention one afternoon by putting in $5 worth of plays of a song by Mr. Kristal in the venue’s jukebox. “I definitely mourn the loss of character and style,” Mr. Nile said of the East Village era. Of the Target display, he said, “It doesn’t surprise me; it’s a drag.”
The incident is the latest in a series of tangles in which commercial entities have been accused of co-opting the past culture of a gentrifying area. When Daniel Boulud announced his intention to mimic CBGB’s facade on his restaurant DBGB on the Bowery, he was met with a cease-and-desist letter from the venue’s estate lawyer. A Crown Heights restaurant drew ire for promoting its décor, which included bullet holes. Last year, new luxury residential properties in the Shaw/U Street area of Washington met with pushback for choosing the names The Ellington and Langston Lofts.