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Target Founder Believed Businesses Were Obligated To Give Back


Douglas Dayton, the first president of what became the Target Corporation, has died at the age of 88. Rupa Shenoy of Minnesota Public Radio has a look at a man who transformed retail and continued a family tradition of philanthropy.

RUPA SHENOY, BYLINE: Before Target was Target, it was Dayton's, a department store chain in Minnesota. Five brothers inherited the Dayton Company in 1950. Doug Dayton was the youngest. Doug's wife, Wendy Dayton, says that motivated him.

WENDY DAYTON: He spent all of his years trying to live up to his older brothers.

SHENOY: The brothers built the world's first all-indoor shopping mall in a Minneapolis suburb. Then Doug Dayton realized discount shopping was catching on. Wendy Dayton says her husband wanted to create a new kind of retail store to respond to the trend.

DAYTON: It was not openly embraced in the very beginning. But he really felt that with other discounters starting to pop up around the country that that would start to eat into the department store business. And he felt that it was important and timely to enter that arena.

SHENOY: Ellen Green, who co-wrote "The Birth of Target" with the eldest of the five brothers, Bruce Dayton, says the brothers made all the decisions about Target together. But they chose Doug as president.

ELLEN GREEN: Doug had a vision. They all had vision, but he was known for his vision.

SHENOY: A publicity director came up with the name and logo in according to company lore, a burst of inspiration. The first Target opened in the Twin Cities suburb of Roseville in 1962, the same year as the forerunners to Wal-Mart and Kmart opened. It was very different from traditional department stores: everything was on one floor, the cash registers were all up front, and the merchandise was marketed as discounted but also high quality.

Doug Dayton led the company through some early ups and downs and kept it expanding. Before retiring in 1974, he helped establish a corporate giving program that now donates $4 million dollars a week to schools and nonprofits. He also raised millions of dollars for the local YMCA, at one point setting a record within the organization for fundraising. In a 2007 interview, Doug Dayton said he was obligated to give back.


DOUGLAS DAYTON: My father always said - even though he wasn't particularly interested in the arts - he said if we didn't have the symphony and art institute, we'd be a cow town. Well, it comes from a long tradition. We thrive with the community, we prosper with it, we give back to it.

SHENOY: The Dayton family helped transform the Twin Cities into an unlikely Midwestern seat of arts and culture. It's still influential today: the state's governor is Doug Dayton's nephew, Mark Dayton. For NPR News, I'm Rupa Shenoy. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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