“The former Rosenberry’s Supermarket and former McCabe’s Auto Supply, will be knocked down and replaced with a new building to house a Family Dollar store according to information revealed at Wednesday night’s, (Aug. 7th), borough council meeting.” Reported Evan Brandt on his Digital Notebook Blog Friday, August 9th.
Evan reports that support for this project by the planning commission and borough council is a foregone conclusion. I wonder how much time our local leaders have spent looking around, asking questions, researching the dollar store phenom and associated problems that they bring to many communities? My guess? Not much time…
And that’s why I am bringing this information to you, taxpayers, business people, residents. Please evaluate for yourselves. I ask this question:
Has any one of the local leaders outreached to the community? Specifically, Steve Toroney councilman in that neighborhood, to ask what the residents think about this proposal?
Well, no…no they haven’t, according to neighbors in the 4th Ward.
The time I’ve spent in the 4th ward left me with the impression of a fairly quiet, low-key neighborhood. I don’t know the ratio of renters to homeowners but the area still feels safe and clean – as compared to the 1st Ward downtown.
The idea of another discount store in Pottstown, especially one located in a mostly residential area, sent me on a mission to learn about the dollar store impact on neighborhoods and small communities.
I’ve shopped at Family Dollars while traveling across the nation. Some were cleaner and better run than others while some were frighteningly filthy with loiterers hanging in the parking areas and in front of the shops inviting would-be shoppers to stay in their cars for their own safety.
Right off the bat I discovered, in my research, that Family Dollar has set a new goal to target stressed out, low-income, African American communities. Their 2012 plans included 450 – 500 new stores.
In 2012 the executives of Family Dollar decided to start selling tobacco products to it’s customers, in some locations, taking advantage of the angst that people in poorer communities feel about their budgets while capitalizing on the $90 Billion dollar tobacco business that “drives frequent trips <to the store>,” according to Family Dollar CCO Michael Bloom in this 2012 Huffington Post article:
In the Atlantic Cities online publication, data is presented that tracks the geography of dollar-stores providing information on the number of chain dollar-stores across the continental United States and tracking their density on a per population basis. Via various correlations “the geography of the dollar store economy provides a powerful lens into the fault lines of income, class and race.”
Among the findings that are the most disturbing is this:
“Dollar store states are also positively associated with property crime, especially burglary, and violent crime, especially murder and manslaughter. The geography of dollar stores also reflects overall living standards and levels of happiness or subjective well-being. Not surprisingly, states with more dollar-stores have lower levels of each (with a correlation for living standards and happiness).”
This report also states that there is a correlation between Dollar Stores and Poverty. We CAN do better than this.
To see more info and graphs, click here:
Also, in a bold, pro-active move Chicago officials, last July, announced a plan to shut down stores, including dollar stores, that allowed loitering and contributed to drug and gang activity. Snatching business licenses, collecting fines for uncorrected codes violations, city hall planned to publicize the owner’s names, alleged violations and complaints.
In Pottstown, officials looked the other way while the Achi Store opened a second “crime breeding” location, on Charlotte St., after the owner and an employee were arrested for selling K-2, whereby spreading the seediness to a whole new neighborhood where people loiter, making their drug connections.
Now, council wants to throw out the Welcome Mat to a potentially bigger player in the seedy crime breeding arena….A DOLLAR STORE!!
On a very local level here are my personal observations:
Family Dollar, in another decision to increase their bottom line, is now luring impoverished families with discount ramen noodles, frozen casseroles and other packaged food. While health advocates say cheap food comes at a high cost and some communities are battling to keep the stores out of their neighborhoods.
The core neighborhoods in Pottstown remain “food deserts”, defined by Wikipedia as:
“A food desert is a district with little or no access to foods needed to maintain a healthy diet but often served by plenty of fast food.”
Here’s a quick and dirty list of shops, within Pottstown’s borders, that sell the usual pre-packaged food, candy, pop, chips, cigarettes. Some sell small household items, cleaning supplies while others have deli’s serving sandwiches, (this is not a complete list).
PLEASE SHOW ME THE NEED for a Family Dollar:
Dollar Tree at Pottstown Center, The Expanded Walmart at Pottstown Center
Dollar General on 1600 blk. High St
Shops Downtown & Near Downtown:
Redners, Rite-Aid, Turkey Hill, Cumberland’s, Cole’s, Brunish’s, Daisy’s, Dino’s x 2, Achi Store x2 and The Funny Little Dollar Store in the 200 block of High St
Are Pottstown officials REALLY that out-of-touch with their community…AND…do they actually THINK a Family Dollar is a GREAT way to lead revitalization??
There is a movement afoot, a very important movement that has to do with healthy choices and it includes locally grown organic foods, teaching and learning about their benefits. The School District has made a dedicated effort toward healthy foods and exercise while Mosaic CLT continues to add community gardens. Olivet Boys and Girls are learning about where their food comes from with the assistance of Art Fusion & the CLT. The Health and Wellness Foundation is supporting many efforts to increase healthy lifestyles throughout the community, including a recent workshop for teachers held at the Hill School.
Not to mention there is a huge “buy local” effort across the nation because it benefits the environment by limiting shipping of foods and goods and it benefits local producers. Pottstown sits at the epicenter of small organic farms and farm fed meats, eggs and dairy products all within reach, so why not encourage a local farm market at 381 Farmington or a co-op grocery?
I encourage borough officials to learn about what’s going on in their community and choose to support those efforts. This burgeoning health and wellness movement is much more closely aligned with the dozen, or so, studies and plans developed over the past 35 years for Pottstown and stands to put Pottstown on the map.
If it’s a quick fix they seek there are a plethora of chain markets like Fresh Market, Whole Foods among others, (maybe even Kimberton *wink*), that focus on healthy choices, and local foods – this is also a fast growing market trend in smart communities. BUT, it requires our leaders to actively guide economic growth and connect with the companies that can bring about positive change.
How did Family Dollar show up on the scene? Did THEY target Pottstown?
Currently, there are only two locations within walking distance of the downtown neighborhoods that consistently sell a selection of fresh produce: The Farmers Market and Daniel’s. Neither store offers a broad selection of dried legumes, whole grains or other bulk items that are very healthy and cost effective – there is a big gap that can be filled with a little creativity.
HERE’S AN IMPORTANT EXCERPT FROM 2012 – Huffington Post:
Packaged foods are not unhealthy if part of a well-rounded diet. Yet many recent dollar store openings have been in areas devoid of full-service markets — so called “food deserts,” according to Mari Gallagher, a health policy researcher, consultant, and adjunct professor at Northeastern’s Institute on Urban Health Research.
In food deserts, which are almost always low-income neighborhoods, fast-food and convenience stores abound. In Chicago, Detroit and Birmingham, Ala., among other places, Gallagher’s research linked diet-related deaths with the proximity to non-traditional or “fringe” food sources that include fast-food outlets, dollar stores and convenience stores.
In Hamilton County, Ohio, for example, Gallagher and her team found that people who live near dollar stores had an increased chance of diet-related illnesses like cancer and diabetes, after controlling for race, gender, income and age.
“As of now, [the correlation between dollar stores and death] is statistically significant, but just barely there,” Gallagher said. “But considering that dollar stores are just entering the market in great force, we’re concerned that relationship is going to worsen.”
Some communities, concerned about health risks as well as economic factors, have begun to fight the spread of dollar stores. The (ironically-named) Mt. Healthy, Ohio, Joshua Tree, Calif.,Quailwood, Ariz., Waterbury, Vt., and Taos, N.M., were among the places where residents and community groups opposed new dollar stores in 2011.
In Philadelphia’s historic Germantown section, for example, a zoning law was passed as early as 2008 prohibiting new dollar store openings in a historic district already overrun by the retailers. Last spring, controversy erupted over a proposed Dollar Tree, which developers described as a “grocery store” on the zoning application to comply with the ordinance.
When the community found out, “people were outraged,” said Bill Thomas, a Germantown resident and chief of staff for state Rep. Rosita Youngblood, a Democrat who opposed the development.
“People picketed the location of the development from April to December,” Thomas said. “It was another instance of a developer assuming a community isn’t worthy or doesn’t want anything more in-depth than unhealthy, prepackaged, sodium-infused food.
I oppose the Dollar Store in our community and many communities are opposing dollar stores. However, if you are among the residents who welcome the new jobs it will create please know that Family Dollar doesn’t have a great track record of treating employees fairly:
Against all good judgement if officials are determined to have a Family Dollar then why not locate them in one of the vacant retail spaces at the old Giant shopping Center?
NOT in the heart of Pottstown.
What you can do. If you agree that we don’t need another discount store downtown, or need one at all, please drop me a quick email: firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me on Facebook. Attend the Planning Meeting at Borough Hall, 3rd Floor 7PM Thursday, August 22nd and share your thoughts with members of the committee. Share quotes from the links I’ve provided here. We can work on a petition and appeal to our County and State leaders as well.
Send an email or call council and planning members with your thoughts: (no contact info listed for planning members)!!!
Dan Weand, Chairman
Stephen Toroney, Vice Chairman