In 2020, fast-growing Dollar General opened stores in Centralia, Oakville, Napavine and Vader. Now, the company is considering expanding even more in Lewis County. The company is “reviewing the opportunity” to add stores in Winlock, Pe Ell, Morton and a second store in Centralia, according to Dollar General.
Dollar General is a chain of retail stores that sells a variety of goods, from shampoo to toys to food. All items do not cost $1, like the similarly named store Dollar Tree, but the company claims to have low and affordable prices. The company was established in 1939 and now has over 17,000 locations in 46 states, according to the Dollar General website.
Angela Petkovic, public relations associate with Dollar General, said the company is in the “due diligence phase” of the four possible locations and is looking into acquiring the necessary permits to move forward with the projects. By late summer of 2021, a final decision will be made on whether or not they will begin construction on the Morton, Winlock and second Centralia locations. The final decision will be made on the Pe Ell location this spring, Petkovic said.
Pe Ell Mayor Lonnie Willey said that as far as he knows, Dollar General has purchased the property and is currently moving forward with securing permits.
“We’ve had a little kickback from one of the stores here in town, but that’s to be anticipated, I guess. But by-and-large everybody in the community is excited about having the new store in town,” Willey said. “Of course, it’s going to bring tax revenue to our town, so I think it’s a good thing.”
The average Dollar General store employs approximately six to 10 employees.
“Our customers are at the center of all that we do, and meeting customers’ needs is Dollar General’s top priority when choosing store locations. In selecting store sites, we take a number of factors into consideration, carefully evaluating each potential new store location to ensure we can continue to meet our customers’ price, value and selection needs. We further strive to provide convenience for customers who may not have affordable nearby retail options,” Petkovic said.
John Kim, the owner of Annie’s Napavine Country Market for over 25 years, said that sales have dropped since the Napavine Dollar General opened this past summer. Napavine has a population of just under 2,000, according to the 2018 U.S. Census.
“A nationwide chain store moves into a small town — it’s unfair. A lot of people I’ve talked to don’t like it. They want to keep the hometown businesses here,” Kim said.
The owner of the Super Mini Mart, another small convenience store in Napavine, declined to comment when asked how the Dollar General location is affecting his business.
Chris Merritt, with the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs, told NPR that Dollar General has had a profound impact on rural America.
"For many communities, it's the first new commercial investment in many years," he said. "It represents progress of a sort."
The Dollar General store in Centralia, located at 416 W. Reynolds Ave., was opened in the summer of 2020. The second Centralia location the company is looking into is located off of East Summa Street and South Gold Street.
Dollar General moves into predominantly rural areas of the country and has reported annual gross revenue of more than $22 billion in 2016, 2017 and 2018, according to its 2019 report to investors and filings with the Securities Exchange Commission.