Organized as Citizens to Preserve Ridgway, residents are doing everything in their power to make it clear to Family Dollar that an overwhelming percentage of the citizenry is against seeing the retail store come to Ridgway. Already, citizens have held protests outside Ridgway’s future Family Dollar site, and outside the Montrose store location as well.
Over 700 residents have signed a petition declaring they would not support Family Dollar in Ridgway and just last week, Citizens to Preserve Ridgway announced that has posted an online pledge to boycott Family Dollar where consumers across the nation can sign the pledge if the corporation continues its plans to open in Ridgway.
“Legally, the Town of Ridgway cannot prevent Family Dollar from moving in or deny them a building permit, which they finally obtained last week,” Ridgway resident and CPR organizer Vicci Spencer said last week. “Despite all our efforts, the purchase of the property where the store will be located was finalized yesterday.”
Ridgway Town Manager Jen Coates confirmed Monday that Family Dollar’s permit to build the 8,000 square-foot retail store may be issued at any time, after payment for the permit to the town.
“The building doesn’t require any conditional use permits or variances,” Coates said. “There’s nothing out of the ordinary in this project, and it meets the conditions of the town’s municipal code and the town’s land use requirements.”
With little residents can do to keep the retail store from becoming a reality, the petition and threat of a boycott is the protesters’ last resort in attempting to convince Family Dollar officials that Ridgway residents won’t support the new store.
“It’s an issue that a majority of people in Ridgway feel passionate about,” Spencer said. “We all moved here because we wanted to get a way from life in big cities that are full Wal-Marts and big box stores. We like the character of our little small town, and its aesthetics are very important to us. We are here for the beauty and the small Western town atmosphere and we want to keep it that way.”
Family Dollar stores, like other discount retailers such as Wal-Mart and Dollar Tree, thrive in periods of economic decline. When the Family Dollar Store in Montrose expanded its food section in the spring of 2009, the Charlotte, N.C.-based company announced that it would be adding 200 new stores to its 6,800 stores in 44 states, and its steady cross-county march has not slowed.
The success of independent and chain dollar stores was highlighted in a story in last weekend’s New York Times Magazine quoting Kiley Rawlins, vice president for investor relations at Family Dollar, as saying the company would add 300 new stores this year, giving it more than 7,000 stores in 44 states.
It appears that even Ridgway is not immune to what the Times Magazine story calls a “dollar-store economy” that has made an appealing market out of a hyper-productive global manufacturing system and price appeal. At Family Dollar stores, things are cheap; the stores offer a mix of name-brand consumable products, from an inexpensive assortment of foods and paper products to apparel to a seasonal mix of products from gift-wrap to decorations to greeting cards. The company says it aims to satisfy its core customer, who described as a female head of household in her mid 40s making less than $40,000 a year.
Before the market crash of 2008, and the stagnant economy that has followed in its wake, dollar stores like Family Dollar, it was thought, targeted low-income customers. While it’s true, the Times said, that low-wage earners still make up the core customer base for dollar stores, a new customer base has surfaced, now making the dollar stores almost recession- proof.
“What’s driving the growth is affluent households,” James Russo, vice president of the consumer survey firm Nielsen Company, told the Times Magazine.
These new customers, although they have money, worry either that they don’t, or soon won’t, have disposable funds. It’s these anxious spenders who have created a sort of “fear-induced pleasure” in bargain hunting.
The story also notes that as dollar stores continue to attract this new “affluent” customer base, the stores are changing their layout of products as well. Instead of a organizing the store for the bargain-hunting grazer who may spot a cheap item he or she needs, Rawlins told the Times, stores will now be organized around groupings of products that make sense for the “mission-oriented” hunter.
“I’m getting what I need and getting out,” Rawlins said, summing up the marketing shift.
While most dollar store successes come out of urban and even suburban communities with anywhere from one to many strip malls and other big box stores, how well Family Dollar will do in Ridgway remains to be seen. Once built, it will be the first of its kind in Ouray County, and so far, residents, to say the least, aren’t excited about the change.
“We would like Family Dollar to listen to us and say ‘we are not wanted here, these people are serious,’” Spencer said. “‘Maybe the ethical thing to do is pursue it in another town.’ That’s what we are trying to show them. It’s not just a couple people here who are against this. We have been to other Family Dollar stores in other places; we just don’t want them in Ridgway.”
The citizen group’s petition to boycott Family Dollar is online at gopetition.com/petitions/pledge-to-boycott-family-dollar.html.