Preschooler works hard for Target
It’s not every day — or, really, any day — that you see a Target employee skipping through a store. But then, there’s probably no other Target worker who is 3 years old like Francesca “Frankie” Kantukule.
Though she lives in Andover, Frankie regularly visits the NewMarket Square Super Target on the west side because her brother, 5-year-old Liam, attends preschool at the nearby Sedgwick County Zoo.
Frankie quickly became the star of the store.
“She definitely needed to be an official team member here,” said visual merchandising leader Alex Revard.
“She already had the outfit,” he said of the red-and-khaki combination of Target colors Frankie wears to shop.
“We used to give her just a sticker name tag — like a temporary one — and thought we had to make it pretty official, so we ordered her her own name tag so everyone knows her name when she comes here and hangs out with all her best friends.”
It’s not overstating it to say some of Frankie’s closest friends are Target employees, particularly Revard and Joni Miller, executive team leader for specialty sales.
“It makes our day,” Miller said shortly after Frankie stole her pen within seconds of seeing her Friday.
“It wasn’t long after we started coming — way too frequently — that Alex befriended us,” says Frankie’s mom, Adrienne Kantukule. “Just because Alex really is amazing. . . . Just super social.”
Revard gave Frankie a play walkie-talkie.
“She likes the real one, though,” he said. “We’ve been practicing for about a year now.”
He sweetly mimics Frankie’s voice when she makes calls on the walkie-talkie.
“She says, ‘Hi Joni. Hi Alex. Where are you?’ ” he said. “And then the whole store hears on the walkie.”
Miller said just about everyone who works at the store knows Frankie.
“They know when she comes on the walkie. We expect her on Mondays and Fridays, and if she doesn’t come in people actually ask, ‘Where was Frankie today?’ Like, it’s part of our routine now,” Miller said. “Even if we’re having conversations, like with my boss, he’ll be like, ‘Oh, well go find Frankie.’ Like, it kind of stops when she’s here.”
Frankie’s first priority generally is visiting the Starbucks within Target.
“A Starbuck’s ‘coffee’ is the only way to start a shift off right,” Kantukule wrote on a blog about Frankie’s Target work.
Her “coffee” actually is hot chocolate.
Starbucks is where her shift ends, too, with a free cookie.
“She normally leaves this place a little sugared-up,” Kantukule said.
Frankie does some work in between, particularly with her friend Vassie Welch in the shoe department.
On her way to help Welch on Friday, Frankie first had to stop in the toy department where there’s a child-size house she thinks of as her own.
“See my house!” she shouted while running toward it as her mother admonished her to slow down.
Whether Frankie skips or runs, adults can’t keep up.
She hid inside her house for a bit, checked its mailbox and then ran down the aisle to some glittery bows she sneaked into a shopping cart while Kantukule was talking with someone.
Frankie cautiously looked up at her mother to see if she’d been caught before moving on to play with some sunglasses. Revard helpfully took off the cardboard the glasses came in so Frankie could play with abandon.
“This is why she loves coming, because she’s spoiled,” Kantukule said.
Then it was on to help Welch.
“Vassie!” Frankie exclaimed.
“What do you want to do today first, huh?” Welch asked. “Do you want to put some shoes away?”
Welch patiently explained how shoes have to point a certain way.
“I love her. Love her,” Welch says. “She’s the best.”
Revard said Frankie often helps him move items from a department where they don’t belong or helps dress a mannequin.
On her blog, Kantukule wrote a list of all the things Frankie has learned on the job.
“You must kiss and love on all of the lonely stuffed animals without a kid to call their own,” is one. Another: “The only way to ensure that the floors are clean is to lay down on your belly and test them for yourself.”
As much as store employees are charmed by Frankie, she also looks forward to seeing them.
When Miller took a vacation, she was told that Frankie “was looking for you everywhere.”
“I can’t come to this Target without her,” Kantukule said. Employees will “all be so disappointed. They don’t want to see me.”
Yet it’s Kantukule who “gifted her the obsession” of Target.
“I can honestly say that most of the time she’s my favorite person to shop with,” Kantukule said. “She’s highly entertaining.
And “she’s so fun.”
“She doesn’t demand things,” Kantukule said. “She just likes being here.”