Nestled between farmland and wooded areas across the rural areas of the state is the familiar site of bumblebee yellow-and-black signs luring customers who would otherwise have to travel more than 30 miles to the nearest grocery store.
“The yellow Dollar General store sign is a popular symbol of value,” said Crystal Ghassemi, Dollar General spokeswoman.
Dollar General is the nation’s largest small-box discount retailer, and operates hundreds of stores in Oklahoma — most in small communities, she said.
“We are considered today what the old-fashion general store was to our great-grandparents,” Ghassemi said.
The average 7,300-square-foot store is much smaller than a typical chain grocery or department store. The design of the neighborhood store is to make shopping simpler and save the customer time, Ghassemi said.
Milk, eggs, bread, toilet paper, diapers, or a tube of lipstick are just some of the items found at a Dollar General store.
The premise of Dollar General is for the customer to complete his or her shopping trip in less than 10 minutes. Dollar General doesn’t carry every brand and size, just the most popular ones, she said.
The company has more than 11,000 stores across the country and each one is stocked with generic and name brand items such as Procter and Gamble, Kimberly-Clark, Kellogg’s, General Mills, Nabisco, Hanes, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola.
“The company’s mission is serving others,” Ghassemi said.
One of those serving avenues is focused on literacy.
“Any school or educational-related program within 20 miles of where a Dollar General store is located can apply for grants to aid in a literacy program, she said.
The Tennessee-based company pioneered the dollar store concept, Ghassemi said.
A quick run to town from the family farm for a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk has become easier with more than 364 Dollar General stores in Oklahoma, Ghassemi said. Of those stores across the state more than 82 percent are in a “small city, small town or an unknown” venue, she said.
“Nationwide 70 percent of the company’s stores serve communities with a population of 20,000 or less,” Ghassemi said.
The forerunner to the Dollar General venture was the J.L Turner and Son Wholesale store that opened in Oct. 1939. Turner already had three failed attempts at retailing, when he and his son, Cal Turner Sr. each invested $5,000 in the startup businesses.
The first Dollar General store opened in Springfield, Ky., on June 1, 1955.
“The store was founded on the marketing idea that no item in the store would cost more than one dollar,” Ghassemi said. Almost 75 years later about one-fourth of the Dollar General’s merchandise still sells for a dollar or less, she said.
By 1957, annual sales of Dollar General’s 29 stores were $5 million. In 2013, sales topped $17.5 billion, Ghassemi said.
“We have a store in 40 states,” Ghassemi said.
Plans are to expand into Maine, Rhode Island and Oregon by 2015, she said.