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Every store needs a Dale Findlay. He's the guy who knows where everything is. Do you have green microfiber dishtowels for left-handers? I also need some Velcro, and a phone. And radishes, if you've got them. Visitors to the Edina Target know that anything can be found if you just find Dale, and he'll take you there. He's always around, it seems, like a public utility: Water comes out of the faucet, electricity comes out of the outlet, and Dale is always driving around the aisles, joking with customers. If they moved him to another store he'd probably take half the customers with him. Long way from where he started out.
So, you're a native Minnesotan?
"Yep. Well, I was born in Fargo. I was three months early, and my dad didn't trust the small-town hospital. I grew up around 40 miles west of Morris on a farm, but the local school wasn't accessible. So I went to a handicapped boarding school."
After high school and vo-tech training in retail management, he ended up at Target in 1988 where he promptly had a "Star Is Born" moment where the lead actor gets sick and the understudy goes on. "I started as a level one. On the fifth day I was here my co-worker passed out. My manager that day said, 'Dale, I don't have anyone else to look over housewares, it's all yours.' He gave me a crash course. And the rest is history. My title now is guest service team leader; wherever we're having issues, that's where I am."
Anyone asked for anything you can't find?
"Eighty-five percent of the time I can get you in the right aisle, at least. It was an amazing transition going from the store that used to be here and the one we have now. Now we have the full grocery store, and I've been amazed I've been able to incorporate all that into my head. It's a lot of stuff."
Where did you go when they knocked down the old store?
"I went downtown. I wanted to go somewhere else besides Bloomington, experience a different culture compared to Edina. It was different; it's a two-level store."
They have that escalator for carts. Did you try that?
"I wanted to. [Laughs] They wouldn't let me."
Generous toward his colleagues as well as customers, he also has appreciation for his company and his state.
"Minnesota is one of the best states for people with disabilities. I was able to get involved in local politics; I was a volunteer on Jim Ramstad's committee on disabled issues, and I've been able to work with organizations like the Optimists to collect eggs for Easter. Because of the way Minnesota helps people, I can be a taxpayer not a tax burden. I've watched the mindset change over the years. When I started and I would roll up, they would look at me as if there wasn't anything I could do for them. Now people who've grown up with me being here, they greet me like Norm on 'Cheers.' I've been on an airplane and someone's said, 'Hey, it's the Target guy.'"
Wouldn't want to go do something else? Retire in the sun?
"I could be here another 20 years. But if they tear this store down and I'm still here? Then it's time to leave."