St. Paul's Highland Park will get its own TargetExpress store next summer, the second of its kind to open in the Twin Cities.

The Minneapolis-based retailer will open its new small-format location next July in the Highland Crossing shopping center, Target told the Star Tribune Tuesday. The St. Paul store will be about 17,000 square feet, slightly smaller than Dinkytown location, which opened two weeks ago. But both stores are about a sixth the size of a typical Target store.

"We'll have a mix of families and empty nesters as well as local college students," said Kamau Witherspoon, Target's senior director of store operations, noting that St. Catherine University and the University of St. Thomas are nearby.

Witherspoon said the retailer was drawn to Highland Park because it is such a vibrant and dense neighborhood. And similar to Dinkytown, the new store should also attract a lot of millennials. Target also plans to open three Express stores in the San Francisco Bay Area, but it hasn't yet disclosed details about them.

Target is testing out Target Express — its smallest format — in the urban core to try to expand its reach in areas where it's bigger boxes don't easily fit. The experimentation comes at a time when rival Wal-Mart has been aggressively rolling out hundreds of smaller stores amid a consumer shift toward quick trips.

David Brennan, co-director of the Institute for Retailing Excellence at the University of St. Thomas, said Highland Park is a good location for Target with lots of nearby residents who come from appealing income brackets.

"I think it's a good fit for that market because it is underserved," he said.

He added that it may have an even bigger shopper base to choose from in the future with plans to turn the nearby Ford plant into a mixed-use development. The city is hoping a developer will turn the 122 acres into housing, offices and parks. The site is currently being cleaned up following the demolition of the shuttered plant.

The TargetExpress store will fill the space currently occupied by a Barnes & Noble bookstore. A company spokeswoman did not respond to a request for information about when that store will close. Some of the store's neighbors will include Starbucks, Chipotle, Walgreens and Lunds.

Witherspoon said the Highland Park store will not be an exact replica of the Dinkytown store, but will be catered to the needs of the local community. He said Target will be surveying residents to see what they want in the new store. But like the Dinkytown location, it will have a lot of private-label items and will be focused on essentials such as grocery, health and beauty.

Target has been pleased with the response thus far to its first ever TargetExpress store, which opened last month in Dinkytown, he said. But he said it's too early to say how it might tweak the assortment there.

"We're just in a test and learn and listen mode," he said.

The store has a limited assortment and does not have departments such as apparel, furniture and toys.

As expected, the store's grab-and-go food items such as sandwiches and salads have been popular, Witherspoon said. And its "fan central" area featuring University of Minnesota gear has already become one of the retailer's top performers in that category across the chain.

Some other interesting tidbits: Single rolls of paper towels have been selling well, as have cat-related products (more so than ones for dogs).

And while it does have fewer items than a traditional store, Target did make room for some Ping-Pong balls in the Dinkytown store, an obvious nod to its college audience — beer pong, anyone?

"Localization," Witherspoon quipped when asked about them.

Kavita Kumar • 612-673-4113