Goldendale shoppers will soon have a new option for bargain shopping. Dollar General, a national chain of variety stores headquartered in Tennessee, will open a new retail storefront off Highway 97 at 714 E. Simcoe Drive. The company anticipates construction will be completed in spring of 2021.
Applications for the development were submitted in May of 2020 by California-based Woodcrest Real Estate Ventures, LLC. Following all requisite notices and two public comment periods, the City of Goldendale finalized approval of their plans in late July.
“I see this as a positive development that, I hope, will spur future investment and development projects in our City,” says Justin Leigh, City of Goldendale Land Use Planner. Leigh reports that the application stood out for its “completeness and the high level of professionalism on behalf of the applicants.” Additionally, he says the project aligns well with the zoning district and satisfies the goals of the City’s Comprehensive Plan.
Corporate literature for Dollar General states that the company is “deeply involved in the communities it serves.” However, applicant and Woodcrest project manager Jonas Dyer was unable to disclose any details about what drew the company to this area, nor could he disclose if they had any local relationships or business ties. Additionally, Dollar General corporate spokesperson Angela Petkovic did not respond to requests for specific reasons the company chose Goldendale to expand their chain. Goldendale Mayor Mike Canon said he was told by the company that it looked closely at the traffic on Highway 97 because it prefers to place stores near high-vehicle areas. “My view is it will bring jobs and more retail variety to our town,” the mayor said. “I feel it will draw shoppers from 97 who might not have stopped on the way by. Goldendale is beginning to be noticed by larger cities struggling with growing issues related to riots and crime—Goldendale has low crime and is a more peaceful community.”
Petkovic noted that future benefits could be measured in creation of local jobs, support for nonprofits and libraries through the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, and the generation of local tax revenues.
Petkovic reports that the new store will provide between six and 10 permanent jobs.
Jay Elliott of Fulcrum Construction Group, the Alabama-based firm contracted for the buildout, is superintendent for the Simcoe development. He reports their company has contracted with all local labor, totaling about 50 temporary jobs in all. Construction for the 9,100 square foot facility is moving quickly, thanks to cooperation from local agencies and municipal departments. “Everyone in this town has been great to work with,” Elliott says. “They have bent over backwards to get this going.”
While the chain was founded in 1939, Dollar General is a newcomer to the state. They opened their first location in Washington in April of 2020 and came under public scrutiny in national press shortly thereafter. A June 2020 article published in The New Yorker entitled “The True Cost of Dollar Stores” describes the struggles of Dollar General employees and their host communities across the country, citing safety concerns for shoppers and employees alike.
Petkovic claims the company “strives to provide convenience for customers who may not have affordable nearby retail options.” And while many in town are eager for the new offerings—foods, health and beauty products, home cleaning supplies ad housewares, seasonal items, and basic clothing— reception within the local community is somewhat mixed.
Kim Methe owns the Goldendale General store, which has been in operation since 1985. An advocate for shopping local, she’s concerned not only about the potential impact the new store will have on her own business, but in the broader community support for shopping local.
“They’re going to affect every one of us down main street,” Methe says. “Their goal is just building buildings and getting it started; they couldn’t care less what happens after that.” Beyond apprehension about the new neighbor, Methe expressed disappointment with the engagement of the local Chamber of Commerce with existing small businesses, and the lack of patronage by city and county government accounts as they opt to source from more distant chain supply stores. Methe reports that the General Store formerly employed eight local residents, but since the 2008 economic downturn, they were all let go.
“The economy is continuing to create more of our core customer,” according to a 2017 statement from Dollar General CEO Todd Vases in The Wall Street Journal. The New Yorker report notes the prevalence of these chain stores in economically depressed communities, for which Goldendale fits the bill; Klickitat County is a federally designated Economic Opportunity Zone. The author goes on to cite compelling research from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. “While dollar stores sometimes fill a need in cash-strapped communities, growing evidence suggests these stores are not merely a byproduct of economic distress, they’re a cause of it.”
Others down Main Street see this as simply the cost of doing business. “The pie is only so big, and our piece will be a little bit smaller,” says Dan McCredy, who has owned The McCredy Company for the last 21 of its 45 years in business. He reports that sales have remained steady this year, in spite of the pandemic, and he remains optimistic for the future. “We’re hoping our customers will remain loyal,” McCredy says.
Dollar General is planning construction for a Skamania County location in Carson later in 2021.