HomeNewsDollar Stores Dominate The Landscape of Rural America: Here’s Why

Dollar Stores Dominate The Landscape of Rural America: Here’s Why

by Joe Rutland
dollar store photo
(Photo by Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto)

Dollar stores have become quite popular in rural America, dotting one town’s landscape at an amazing clip. Why is this happening? One reason might be the economic factors affecting citizens on a daily basis.

For instance, a small town in eastern Kentucky has six dollar stores in it. That’s for a town with a population of 1,424. Olive Hill is situated on Tygarts Creek in the Appalachian foothills. It has two Family Dollar locations and four Dollar General stores in and surrounding the town.

All but one of them are along Tom T. Hall Boulevard, the town’s main drag. It is named after Olive Hill’s most famous native, the country singer-songwriter nicknamed “The Storyteller.” “It seems like there’s a dollar store every few feet!” Olive Hill resident Phyllis Binion told DailyMail.com, laughing as she expressed bewilderment at the trend. 

Dollar Stores Grow At Amazing Clip In Rural Areas

These stores have been the fastest-growing food retailers by share of household expenditure over the past decade. Growth in rural areas has more than doubled, according to a recent study.

There are fears about the srores’ food offerings. Most of them lean toward high-calorie, ultra-processed packaged foods. Dollar General has responded by launching fresh produce sections in thousands of its stores, including several in Olive Hill. 

“While DG is not a grocer, we serve our local communities as a general store and provide an assortment of foods and components of a nutritious meal,” the company told DailyMail.com in a statement. 

Dollar General Opened Up In Small Kentucky Town 50 Years Ago

Meanwhile, in Olive Hill, Dollar General first opened a store 50 years ago. That store relocated and expanded when a local grocery store shut down in 2019. It left a Save-A-Lot as the town’s only full-service supermarket. Since then, Dollar General has opened three other stores in Olive Hill, in addition to the two competing Family Dollars, leaving some residents wondering: Why so many dollar stores? 

“Just over the past couple years they’ve really started popping up,” said Jeremy D. Wells, editor of the Carter County Times, the newspaper for the county that includes Olive Hill. “People aren’t really upset by them, but they are a little puzzled by them popping up like this.”

Dollar General, like other major retailers, uses an algorithm to suggest new store locations. It factors in things like population density, traffic patterns, and nearby businesses and attractions.

Finally, some residents joke that the drive to Morehead can now be measured as “three dollar stores away.” Morehead is a college town with the nearest Walmart and Kroger stores from Olive Hill,