Peter Meller’s dad bought the Salkum Super Market in 1981.
Growing up, Meller took a role helping his father at the young age of 5. For the last 17 years, he’s run the place himself.
The bulk of his customers are regulars who live in Salkum and Silver Creek. During the summer, there is an influx of campers and tourists, but year-round, the store stands because of loyal local shoppers, Meller said.
Though the local gas station and nearby stores fight for the same customers with beer, candy, wine and cigarette sales, at the end of the day the owners feel that “we’re a team out here,” Meller said.
Now, a Dollar General is now being proposed for Silver Creek, just a few miles up the road from Meller’s store. The address of the store would be 170 Gershick Road. It would mark the seventh location in Lewis County, with the chain already setting up shop in Morton, Napavine, Vader, Pe Ell and in both the north and south ends of Centralia.
“As a store owner I’m a little worried. I feel like it will cut into some of my sales,” Meller said.
He said the corporate discount chain has home goods and convenience store-type products, whereas the Super Market is more of a grocery store. Regardless, “yes, they will take some of my sales,” he said, adding, “I’m not that excited that they’re coming to town.”
According to an email from Dollar General Public Relations, the Silver Creek location is currently in the due diligence phase after successfully navigating the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) process.
“This means we are reviewing the opportunity to add a new store in Lewis County, but we have not committed to doing so just yet. Based on our current timeline, we anticipate having a final decision by late fall 2022,” stated the email.
Besides the potential threat it poses to sales for local store owners, Meller also said he just wasn’t sure a Dollar General was going to do well in that location.
“I don’t think they’re going to do well there, I really don’t. Morton (Dollar General) makes sense to me, because it’s in town. But where they’re putting (the Silver Creek location) there’s not many people. You do what you need to do, I just don’t understand the decision making,” he said, adding later, “(Local owners) know what we're doing business-wise and I just don’t know how they’re going to generate enough business to justify a new store.”
Meller said to get to the proposed store, Mossyrock residents would have a 14-mile round-trip. Onalaska customers would have an over 18-mile round-trip.
Ultimately, Meller said, he rests his head on the fact that there are advantages to being an independent grocer that a corporate chain can’t match, such as being able to order products within at least a week without jumping through the hoops of large corporate supply chains.
“I’m pretty confident that I can meet all my customers' needs,” Meller said.