Bruce Dayton, father of Minnesota governor and co-founder of retail giant Target, died Friday morning at 97. Dayton, was numbers-oriented analyst among the five Dayton brothers, each of whom received 20% of the department store after their father’s death in 1950. The brothers expanded Dayton’s to the suburbs, where it anchored the first indoor shopping mall in the United States, in Edina in the late 1950s. A few years later, they launched Target. Sixteen years later he launched the B. Dalton bookstore chain in 1966.
Bruce Dayton liked to point out that when he and his brothers took over after World War II, Sears Roebuck was “40 times our size in terms of sales. Our small company eventually became Target Corp., now larger than Sears and Kmart combined. We must have done something right.”
Target CEO Brian Cornell Reflected on Bruce Dayton’s Life and Legacy of Giving in a post on their official blog A Bullseye View.
More than 50 years ago, the Dayton family conceived an idea that at the time was revolutionary in retail—“to combine the best of the fashion world with the best of the discount world.” A year later, in 1962, the doors to the first Target store were opened in Roseville, Minn.
When I joined this storied company, many people offered ideas and advice, but at 96 years young, Bruce Dayton’s words were perhaps the most profound. He truly wanted me to succeed—he wanted Target to succeed—but not for the reasons you might think. His focus wasn’t on protecting his legacy, but rather, about furthering the commitment to community he began so many years ago. That notion is one of the Dayton family’s core philosophies: Companies’ fortunes are intrinsically linked to the health and vitality of the communities in which they operate. And Bruce understood this long before almost anyone else.
Today, corporate social responsibility is a priority of nearly every company in America. But decades ago, when Bruce was opening Target’s first stores, he was one of the lone voices espousing this view. And he backed his words with bold actions—ensuring Target gave 5 percent of its profits back to the community. A commitment we are proud to uphold today.
Bruce’s record of achievement is remarkable: building the first indoor shopping mall, pioneering the concept of discount retail, founding a company that would become one of the largest private-sector employers in the world. But as much as I am in awe of Bruce’s accomplishments, it is his legacy of generosity that I will always remember the most.