Dollar General, a Tennessee-based chain of general merchandise stores, has over 12,000 stores in the U.S., and they are looking to add one more. Their target location? Donnelsville.
Main & Lake talked to some residents of other small towns who have recently had dollar stores open in their neighborhoods to gauge the impact a Dollar General might have on the tight-knit Donnelsville community.
Donnelsville prides itself on its dedication to small-town living. It is quiet, peaceful, and tucked away near a stretch of U.S. Rt. 40 that is almost entirely devoid of bright lights and big businesses. You are more likely to hear crickets chirping in the evening than traffic noise, and the light that creeps into your home after dark is from the moon, not the artificial glow of halogen parking lot lamps.
Presently, Ronnie’s Donnelsville Mall services the soda, beer, lottery, and potato chip needs of the 300-odd residents of the village. Residents mostly travel to nearby New Carlisle, Springfield, or Enon for their grocery and dry goods needs.
Dollar General has taken notice. Last summer, the bargain store behemoth introduced plans to build along West National Road. The proposal was met with stern opposition when as many as a dozen local Donnelsville residents stormed the Clark County Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) meeting on the subject and offered their concerns. Chief among them are concerns about increased traffic and accidents, endangering local businesses like Ronnie’s Mall, and a deep, passionate — almost romantic — love of farmland.
The decision was tabled by the BZA then, but Dollar General is reportedly looking at a new location near the school in Donnelsville.
M&L searched store grand openings across the nation for chains such as Dollar General, Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, and Dougie’s Dollar Barn. We reached out to residents of communities similar in size and lifestyle to Donnelsville to see what the opening of dollar stores meant for their communities.
1. Pendleton, PA – Population 590 – Dollar General: Grand Opened 9/13/2015
Edward Throckmorton, 66, is a lifelong resident of Pendleton, Pennsylvania, a tiny farming village about 90 miles from Pittsburgh. He was excited about a Dollar General store being opened just a mile from his home.
“It’s about 10, 12 miles to the nearest store from my house, so I liked the idea of getting in and out quick when I need something,” Throckmorton said via email. “But it turned out to be the worst thing to happen to this town since the time Carl Turner’s thresher got hold of that Grady boy in ’89.”
Throckmorton told us that within days traffic increased exponentially and there were three traffic accidents, one involving an underaged driver who wanted to go to Dollar General to buy toys. “The noise has been unbearable. I can’t sleep at night and can’t hear my television during the day. All I hear is cars and people yelling. People just standing in the parking lot of that dollar store and screaming for no reason at all. Not even words, just screaming and yelling bloody murder.”
The store has added about 20 jobs to the village, but Throckmorton says most of the employees are from outside Pendleton. It’s unclear what, if any, impact the store has had onPendleton’s economy.
This sounds like a likely possibility for Donnelsville, if you ask me.
2. Cornton, IN – Population 1100 – Family Dollar: Grand Opened 6/28/2014
For Sue Kitchener, 49, the idea of a dollar store in the rural community of Cornton, Indiana was a bad one from the start.
“I knew it would put our property values in the crapper and that it would bring in a certain clientele that I don’t think anybody around here wants to see,” Kitchener responded in an email. When I asked what type of clientele she meant, Kitchener said “Oh you know what I mean.” Data is not available yet to look into the claims that property values have plummeted as a result of the store opening.
Kitchener also complained of increased foot traffic on Main Street in Cornton. “There’s just people everywhere now. I see dozens of senior citizens walking to and from Family Dollar with bags of food and it makes me sick. Drive a car and quit cluttering up the sidewalks.”
One verifiable event that Family Dollar’s opening may have contributed to is the closing of Nan’s, a general store located dead in the center of Cornton, about a half mile from the new Family Dollar. Nan’s specialized in food, toiletries, and household items and had been in business since 1960.
“They up and put Nan’s out of business,” said Rick Hadsik, 36. Hadsik has shopped at Nan’s since he was a child and considers it a vital part of the community and town’s history. “If I ever get my hands on one of the bastards from that corporation they’ll wish they never came to Cornton. They took history and just tore it down. But that’s no surprise with the way this country is all screwed up right now.”
For Kitchener, Cornton is now beyond saving.
“The dollar store ruined our town. No two ways about it.”
3. Paugh, IL – Population 450 – Dollar General: Grand Opened 3/1/2013
Paugh is a tiny enclave about an hour from Champaign, Illinois. Its own Dollar General store has gone viral because of this video:
WARNING: EXCESSIVE FOUL LANGUAGE
M&L was able to reach Connie Starling, 60, of Paugh, and she filled us in on some changes that have hit the tiny village since Dollar General set up shop.
“I haven’t seen this video you asked about, but I can tell you that the sheriffs are here almost every day because kids are stealing and tearing up that store. Before, when we didn’t have any stores, kids didn’t steal anything from any stores here in Paugh!”
Starling also said that in the past, it was normal for neighbors to visit each other to borrow simple things such as eggs, milk, sugar, or household items. “Now that people go to the Dollar General for everything there’s no sense of community. New people move in and never introduce themselves unless they have to because of a court order, and I wouldn’t give that type of person any sugar anyway. I’ve cursed Obama for wanting to give everyone and their brother free handouts, but I miss when my friends and family would come and ask for something they ran out of.”
Starling is hopeful that the community may change, but she isn’t holding her breath.
“I wish they would close up for good, but there are so many people there getting great deals on everything from food to toys to clothing to cleaning products to plant seeds to car parts to beer to school supplies to diapers to DVDs to tools to bathroom items to candy to beauty products to electronics to anything else a person might need — all for incredible prices and within walking distance of our homes. I just don’t see them going out of business any time soon, unfortunately.”
I think the evidence is very clear. A Dollar General in Donnelsville would mean more traffic, more accidents, more elderly folks walking the streets, more goods available at lower prices closer to home, more shoplifting from Dollar General stores, and more people screaming for no reason at all. Make your voices heard and let’s keep Donnelsville PURE!