In 2004, life looked a lot different: George W. Bush was president, Mean Girls was doing big numbers at the box office, and “Yeah!” by Usher feat. Lil Jon, and Ludacris was at the top of the charts.
15 years ago, long before the Barclays Center was home to the Brooklyn Nets, there was another major center of commerce that stole the spotlight. Yes, at the intersection of Brooklyn’s Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, a Target was born.
Apparently, the grand opening of Target (and the Atlantic Terminal Mall) was one of the borough’s highest profile events of the summer. According to a July 2004 write-up of the event, the Downtown Brooklyn spot was one of the chain’s largest locations in the nation at the time, as well as their first “metropolitan store.” And if you were not on the list for the opening night, you were not getting inside.
Target somehow gathered an eclectic group of downtown New York “icons” of sorts and invited them to the grand opening of their first location in Brooklyn and looking back, the opening event was a peak aughts nostalgia moment.
Comedic rabble rouser Sandra Bernhard, the emcee for the evening, made some politically incorrect remarks that one absolutely could not get away with today (“Where are our Arab-American friends tonight? I see nobody of Muslim descent — that is a crying shame. There are beautiful designer Burkas around the corner, $59.99. Tell your Arab friends to come down, if they’re feeling uncomfortable, they can feel free to shop here at Target,” she said, according to the blog that wrote up the event). She was joined by friend and fellow actor Alan Cumming, and designer Isaac Mizrahi, who helmed a popular line of his own for Target at the time.
But the one moment from the event that distills the 2004 zeitgeist into one image is a photograph of Chloë Sevigny and Maggie Gyllenhaal, with Sevigny, wearing a Chanel ensemble that could be described as chic by both 2004 and 2019 standards, and Gyllenhaal wearing a Lacoste polo, big hoop earrings, a skirt that seems to have been inspired by the pattern sewn into a vintage rug, and ballet flats. It doesn’t get more mid-aughts than this.
The photo of Sevigny and Gyllenhaal went viral after a Twitter account associated with a blog called Flatbushed, which posts about historical moments that took place along Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, shared the image. Marissa Cooper could never.
There probably hasn’t been a more 2004 moment circulated on Twitter than this one. Sevigny was accompanied at Target by her brother, Paul, who DJ’d the event. Deanna Miller—one-time Victoria’s Secret Angel and actress with a cameo in the Lindsay Lohan classic Just My Luck (also co-starring Chris Pine)—posed with Hope the Target Dog (although it should be noted that the brand’s mascot is a bull terrier called Bullseye).
Dopo Yume (one of Sean Lennon’s many musical projects) performed. Lydia Hearst, Cynthia Rowley, Sonia Kashuk, and a co-founder of Heatherette each made an appearance. Some Coney Island Circus Sideshow carnival troupe—complete with a sword swallower—was there, too.
There really is nothing like learning about a little bit of local history. Maybe if there is one thing to take away from this Target grand opening, it’s that at least we get zeitgeist-y time capsules to look back on as cultural reference points whenever a big box chain store opens up and jumpstarts the gentrification of a neighborhood, forcing people out of their increasingly too-expensive homes. And by the way, this Target, much like the state of mind we often find ourselves in in 2019, has descended into madness, and garnered the reputation for being one of the most chaotic Target locations in the city. Weren’t we all so much happier 15 years ago?