Communities Are Fighting Dollar General—And Now the Company Is Suing
One small township lost its battle against the dollar store after being hit with a lawsuit.
These days, it seems like you can't travel more than five minutes down the road without coming across a dollar store. And you're not just imagining it: Dollar store chains have been expanding faster than any other retailer in the U.S. over the past few years. In fact, Dollar General's recent growth has made it one of the largest companies in the country in terms of physical stores, with more than 19,000 locations spread out across the nation. But this takeover hasn't come without backlash, and some communities have fought back against allowing new Dollar General stores to be built. As it turns out, the company isn't going down without a fight of its own. Read on to find out why towns are resisting dollar stores, and how Dollar General is responding.
Communities have been fighting back against dollar stores.
Dollar General's growth has been hard to ignore. Between 2019 and 2021, the retailer opened 3,025 new stores, company spokesperson Crystal Luce told USA Today. But these expansion efforts haven't been met with a warm welcome everywhere.
According to a report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), more than 70 cities and towns have blocked new dollar stores from developing in their communities, and 50 cities have enacted laws to limit the ability for these chains to continue expanding.
"One might assume that the dollar chains are simply filling a need, providing basic retail options in cash-strapped communities. But the evidence shows something else. These stores aren't merely a byproduct of economic distress, they are a cause of it," ILSR researchers wrote. "As this report shows, in small towns and urban neighborhoods alike, dollar stores drive grocery stores and other retailers out of business, leave more people without access to fresh food, extract wealth from local economies, sow crime and violence, and further erode the prospects of the communities they target."
A town in Michigan rejected a new Dollar General store.
In 2022, Dollar General set its sights on opening a new store in Nottawa Township, Michigan, local NBC-affiliate WOOD-TV reported. But the small community of less than 4,000 people was vocal in its opposition. Around 100 residents filled the township hall during two public meetings to speak out against a rezoning proposal that would allow the Dollar General store to replace a cornfield.
"I'd say there was a couple that were kind of neutral about it; I think everybody else was opposed to it," Nottawa Townhip Supervisor Dave Peterson told WOOD-TV.
Lifelong resident Merle Schwartz said residents were particularly concerned that the new dollar store would hurt local businesses, like the Sand Lake Party Store down the street.
"[The owner] depends on the local community obviously to purchase products from him, be it gas, meat; they're famous for their ice cream. We would hate for that to disappear because of a Dollar General taking too much business from them," Schwartz told WOOD-TV.
Other residents also noted that there was already another Dollar General store located 3.5 miles away, and several other locations with 10 miles. The overwhelming opposition ultimately pushed the Nottawa Township Board of Trustees to side with residents and turn down the Dollar General development.
"When people show up and have an opinion, it seems that the planning commission and the board should listen to that opinion," Peterson explained.
But the company sued the Michigan community.
A new report from MLive revealed that Nottawa Township was sued after it voted against the zoning proposal. The lawsuit was filed by Midwest V LLC, a developer working on behalf of Dollar General.
The developer filed a 111-page suit arguing that the township board's vote denied it due process and equal protection under the law, WOOD-TV reported. Members grew concerned about the potential costs of the suit, and how far Dollar General would go, especially since the company wanted the township to reimburse its legal fees.
"We had estimates that could be $80,000, $100,000," Peterson told WOOD-TV.
As a result, the township gave up its fight in January and agreed to allow Dollar General to build the store, with a settlement that didn't require the community to pay back the company's legal fees.
"They bully their way, and they get what they want," Nottawa resident Galen Geigley, who built a house next to the future Dollar General location, told MLive.
Dollar General said it is "deeply involved" in the communities it serves.
Construction is already underway for the Nottawa Township Dollar General, and the store is expected to open sometime this fall, WOOD-TV reported.
Best Life reached out to Dollar General about the battle for this location and recent lawsuit, and we will update this story with their response.
But in a statement to WOOD-TV, the company said that "meeting customers' needs" was one of its top priorities in terms of choosing store locations. It also told the station that the Nottawa Township store is set to employ six to 10 people, and that the company is "deeply involved" in the communities it serves.
"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," Dollar General said. "We further strive to provide convenience for customers who may not have affordable nearby retail options."