Another Day, Another Dollar General: The Architectural, Environmental, and Economic Impacts of Dollar Stores

Jacob Rohan, Natalie Kuehl, and Franziska Burkard, “Another Day, Another Dollar General: The Architectural, Environmental, and Economic Impacts of Dollar Stores”
Mentor: Lindsey Krug, Architecture
Oral Presentation Block 1

In 2022, one in three new retail openings in America is a dollar store. Dollar General Corporation, the country’s largest “small-box” retailer, owns and operates the majority of these stores, with nearly 18,000 locations nationwide. By strategically expanding into sites where Walmart and other “big-box” grocers won’t, Dollar General justifies their aggressive expansion as providing at least one food and retail option in areas considered to be food deserts. This significant retail shift is one of the outcomes of – and in turn, a cause of – the well-told story of American food culture where at least 70% of the food Americans eat is processed and manufactured, rather than consumed fresh. Dollar General’s impact on the American landscape, society, and culture is profound and growing exponentially into issues of land use, food culture, economic health, agricultural practices, and supply infrastructures, as well as exacerbating divides among Americans along lines of race, class, religion, politics, and geography. As the dollar-store empire continues its expansion in both rural and urban communities, “small-box” stores are becoming increasingly critical to the function of daily life. Nevertheless, this building typology and the larger ecosystems it operates within are under-explored in architectural discourse. The research seeks to uncover the covert and overt relationships between Dollar General and the communities it serves locally and globally, looking at production processes, marketing strategies, real estate tactics, and fresh food distribution. The research is working to position Dollar General in a more proactive role in terms of how it might work to mitigate its own contributions to catastrophic climate change. By inventorying DG’s products – many of which satisfy basic human needs – the goal is to facilitate a relationship between Dollar General and local community non-profits who collect and distribute essential goods in the aftermath of climate-related disasters.