All around Tulare County, the yellow buildings of Dollar General stores have been popping up recently. And with good reason–they are profitable here.
But, more importantly to the local residents, they provide a service as well as offer job opportunities, said Michael Washam, assistant director of the county’s Economic Development and Planning Resource Management Agency.
For example, it is the initial part of “first development of any new project in Earlimart for decades – since the ‘50s or ‘60s,” he said.
This type of growth is much needed in the rural communities, Washam said. It provides a market with various forms of staples and items that each community needs. It also provides jobs. For each Dollar General store, some 13 or so part and full time jobs are created in some communities that have had no local form of employment opportunity prior.
In all, there are now nine Dollar General stores in Tulare County, including a brand new location in Tipton.
One is being built in Springville, and one is moving forward in Pixley. The company is investigating a location in the Cutler-Orosi area. And, there is also a Dollar General in Corcoran.
While fairly new to Tulare and Kings counties, and California as well, the Dollar General corporation has been around for 75 years with 12,000 stores in 43 states. Its headquarters is located in Gooldettsville, Tennessee.
Some of the Tulare County locations are in cities such as Visalia, Tulare, Exeter and Woodlake.
But the company has found the best sales are in the unincorporated areas, Washam said.
On an early Saturday afternoon in Strathmore, cars, bicycles and pedestrians were streaming in and out of the store located on Avenue 196. Some were leaving with a small bag and others with baskets full.
“It’s good (to have a local store),” said Darla Oakley. Oakley’s family lives in Lindsay, but her daughter attends Strathmore High School.
“There are no other stores in the area with such a variety of items,” she said, “and we are here at least a couple times a week.”
While the store provides a lot of staples including some groceries and school supplies, it is also a place to do a little specialty shopping, Oakley said. She gave an example of her daughter’s needing a Secret Santa gift, which they purchased there.
Likewise, the Earlimart store is very busy, Washam said.
“I recently went into the one in Earlimart when there were only one or two cars in the parking lot,” he said, “but the store was packed.”
Residents do not need to use up gas, or drive far to get a lot of the products they need, he added. And, many families may only have one car which is used for someone to get to work. So, other family members are able to walk to the store.
At first, management for the store chain was hesitant about building new stores in the rural communities, Washam said.
It has specific guidelines in which its staff looks at possible locations, such as a minimum population of 3,000.
“They know what they are looking for,” he said, “Earlimart was kind of hard to get in.”
But Washam and developers for Earlimart’s White River Plaza were persistent, and the benefits are great for that as well as other rural communities and the store chain itself.
The Earlimart store is not only convenient for Earlimart residents, but also for those living in Alpaugh, Richgrove and Allensworth, Washam said.
“It has beat all sales’ expectations,” he said.
Auto Zone has also come to the Earlimart development and on Wednesday it was announced with a ground-breaking ceremony that a McDonald’s is being built, with plans to open in roughly 90 days.