Target in Wellsville

A screenshot of a Facebook page purported to be for a Target department store opening in Wellsville. Officials confirmed the notice to be not authentic and no such development is planned.

WELLSVILLE — Rumors circulating that a Target department store is coming to Wellsville were an April Fools’ Day joke.

Following the creation of a Facebook page for “Target — Wellsville, NY” and a declaration that a store would open in Wellsville in October, company and local officials — as well as the person who created the page — said Monday that the rumors appear to be just that.

The Facebook page, created Friday afternoon, saw one post shared 900 times by Monday indicating such a store was coming to Wellsville. While many of the more than 120 comments praised the location of the store in the community, others quickly pointed out the date being near April Fools’ Day and locating such a store in the 4,500-person community was unlikely.

Target and local development officials said no such plans are underway.

“We are continually evaluating potential store locations to serve new guests, but I don’t have any new-store news to share at this time,” a company spokesperson told the Times Herald.

A listing of new locations nationwide on the Target website includes dozens of soon-to-open locations, but of those listed in New York all are located in New York City, except for one in Yonkers and one on Long Island.

“Target plans to accelerate the pace and open 30-40 new stores each year to meet community needs in urban centers, college campuses and dense suburban cities across the country,” the company said in a March 2 statement announcing a project to expand new locations and remodel 150 existing sites by the end of the year.

“Sorry, April Fools’,” said Craig Clark, executive director of the Allegany County Industrial Development Agency, who has been working to find a new tenant for the former Kmart store site in the Riverwalk Plaza since before the retailer closed in early 2019.

It was unclear who created the page. Someone administering the page, who identified themselves as Tyler, confirmed it was an April Fools’ Day prank when messaged through Facebook, indicating they were inspired by a video on YouTube in which several people made a fake Chick-Fil-A restaurant page for their town.

“To be honest with you, I started the prank so I could prank family members and friends of mine,” he said, sharing data that 47,000 people had been reached with the page and there had been 23,000 post engagements. “I had no idea it would blow up this big.”

The page, while looking authentic at a quick glance to many of those duped, added to the doubt before it was confirmed to be a joke. No other Target location has a similar Facebook page — whether open or soon-to-be open locations. There is no indication in the Page Transparency section that Target was responsible for the page — a disclaimer found on Target’s official Facebook page. Posts lacked the “verified” checkmark, unlike the post on Target’s main Facebook page and pages created by Facebook for other Target locations. The images on the page also were suspect, including a photograph of the Richmond, Texas location used as a stock image for store-related news by Target, as well as a slightly different logo used as the page’s profile picture not matching that used by other Target pages on Facebook.

The official reaction by Facebook officials was inaction. After being reported as a fake page for Target, officials reported the page was within the company’s “community standards” and was allowed to remain up despite no notice that it was a parody or that Target was not involved in the page.

While Target stores are generally not in rural areas such as Wellsville, there are some outside of urban and suburban areas.

A Target store is located in Batavia, a city similar in size to Olean and about three times the size of Wellsville. However, Batavia has a higher median household income; hosts several large economic drivers, including Batavia Downs harness racetrack and casino, a federal detention facility and the headquarters for the New York State Police for the entire region; and is located on Interstate 90 about half an hour from both the Rochester and Buffalo city centers.

Across the region, the chain has seven locations in the greater Buffalo area, seven in the greater Rochester area, as well as one each in Erie, Pa., and Big Flats, as well as Batavia.

The Kmart in Wellsville closed in March 2019, the only such retailer in Allegany County since Ames declared bankruptcy in the early 2000s.

Efforts to bring a Walmart to the community in the early 2010s spent years before municipal boards and in court before the company pulled the plug in 2017 amid a slowing of new construction in the face of more online sales competition.

(Contact City Editor Bob Clark at bclark@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @OTHBob)

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