July 2, 2020
I used to love going back east thirty years ago and enjoy the different feel of the city from that of western communities. The established neighborhoods were built in a time before cars and everything tended to happen local. At that time there were different enclaves of shops, markets, and hardware. I would go inside the small groceries and pour over the shelves of tightly packed goods. When I moved to the west coast, I found a similar situation in communities like China Town in San Francisco. Most of the area in between seemed filled with either large malls, commercial markets, or the corner minimart.
I was directed to an article published in ProPublica and co-published with The New Yorker. It opened with a man speaking about his St. Louis neighborhood. In the 1970’s and early 80’s it had been thriving with plenty of merchants and grocery stores. As the population dropped from 850,000 to 300,00 due to suburban flight and deindustrialization, these stores were replaced by discount chains sporting some form of the name Dollar. The chains allow people to remain in their neighbor and get a wide variety of goods for an exceptionally low price. The popularity of these stores has forced many of the mom and pop stores out of business.
The problem the story addressed was the violence often associated with the stores. They are typically staffed by 1-3 minimally paid workers with no security. The aisles are stacked with boxes and the front windows are blocked by stacks of boxes and ads touting “everything a dollar.” As other venues have left this makes the stores the only place with available cash. These conditions combine to make the stores open to armed robberies. In 2017 there were 38 armed robberies and three murders in the 18 stores in the city of Dayton, Ohio, and more in the surrounding communities. This comes with an average of over 1000 calls for assistance from the police to stores annually. The numbers only go up.
THOUGHTS: I live in a community of less than 10,000 and we have two, one on either side of town. Over 75% of these stores are in rural areas or communities under 20,000 people. While a record 25,000 retail stores are expected to close this year, just one of the big three plans to open 1000 new locations. These were part of the stores considered “essential” since they sold minimal amounts of food. These essential workers put their lives on the line daily, in more ways than one. If you can, work to keep the conversation going.