Driving the roads less traveled across 23 states in 39 days, one constant was the ubiquitous presence of Dollar General. These stores are found pretty much everywhere in the United States except in urban areas. We’d be in the sticks, reach a crossroads, and there would be one of these small businesses, sometimes with no other building in sight. Out of curiosity, I went in to see what was on offer. Nearly everything! Several aisles of groceries, hardware items, toiletries, kitchen items, barbecue items, a wide range of day-to-day things people might want. Think of a super-sized 7-11. But please, do not expect items to cost only a dollar. For that matter, Motel 6 no longer charges $6 a night. Get over it.
We were amazed at how widespread these stores are across the USA. People talk about Wal-Mart’s effect on local economies but I have not heard anyone making dollar stores the good guy or the bad guy as retail stores evolve in the USA. When a dollar store pops up in under-served areas of the countryside, I imagine most locals welcome them. Wikipedia says that there are 18,774 Dollar General stores in the USA and Mexico with 158,006 employees. New DGX stores are being opened in big cities. In 2010, Dollar General licensed the Rexall name and became “the exclusive retailer for Rexall-branded products”. Rexall, as a drugstore chain, seems to be defunct.
We went through lots of small towns and my impression is that most of them are doing OK economically, often with a spirit of successful business, with small businesses filling local economic niches. The pandemic was a time for many people to reset their lives. No science to my opinion, but it looked to me, driving around the country, that lots of people have decided to go into business for themselves and are optimistic about the future of small towns.
Anne wrote: Thought of you and your recent post about Dollar General — just in case you missed reading this story in the New York Times — Click here to read “Will a Dollar General Ruin a Rural Crossroads?”
[ Danny replied: Thanks so much for that article! I was especially struck by the sentence, “One in three stores that opened in the United States in 2022 was a dollar store.” Our travels took us within 40 miles of Ebony. I am struck at how the tension in Ebony is the same as in Sperryville, Virginia. The fellow I talked to at the burger joint said the wealthy outsiders want the area to remain horse country with very large tracks of land while the locals want small tracks of land they can afford to buy and build on. Me, I love it that we have horse country nearby, but I am still on the board of a non-profit that offers affordable housing. Can I have it both ways? ]