Store manager: "It was as big a surprise to us as it was to everyone else"
Dressed casually, Michelle Obama shops at a Washington-area Target store
The first lady's spokeswoman says "it is not uncommon" for Obama to get out of the White House
She has the White House staff at her disposal, but that didn’t stop first lady Michelle Obama from making a Target run in a Virginia suburb of Washington Thursday.
Dressed casually in a gray Nike hat, loose floral blouse, black pants and red flats, the first lady was seen pushing a cart and carrying several bags from the mega-retailer at a Target in Alexandria, Virginia. The store is about a 15-minute drive from the White House. A photographer from The Associated Press snapped a photograph of Obama exiting the store.
White House officials declined to provide any details of Thursday’s outing, saying to protect her privacy they don’t release information about the first lady’s personal activities.
They did, however, say trips like these are not uncommon.
“It is not uncommon for the First Lady to slip out to run an errand, eat at a local restaurant or otherwise enjoy the city outside the White House gates,” Kristina Schake, Michelle Obama’s communications director, said in a statement.
In an interview with CNN, the manager of the Target where Obama shopped said the first lady went unrecognized while she was in the store.
“People did not approach her, she was very incognito,” Maria Panagopulof said. “We didn’t realize truly what was happening until she had almost left. The cashier recognized her, but she was very unassuming.”
Panagopulof said the store received no advance of the first lady’s trip.
“We did not have advance notice; it was as big a surprise to us as it was to everyone else,” she said.
She continued, “In hindsight, there was a sweep, but it was not obvious to us beforehand. When she left we thought ‘Oh, that’s what that was!’”
In May, Michelle Obama told Oprah Winfey that casual shopping trips were one of the things she missed from her life before the White House.
“I think one of the greatest sacrifices for people like us – who like being with people — is that it’s the bubble,” Obama said. “We talked about it. I can’t go to Target and walk around. I guess I could but it would mess up everyone else’s shopping experience.”
CNN’s Alex Mooney and Leslie Bentz contributed to this report.