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Dollar General takeover

Patrons visit the Dollar General store in Parkston earlier this week. (Matt Gade / Republic)

With a target on rural towns, Wagner appears to be the prime spot for Dollar General's next store.

The company has plans to tear down a former business and build new, adding more retail offerings to the town that already has two locally-owned grocery stores and a Family Dollar. With the project, there will undoubtedly be more competition in town.

But condemning the added competition isn't the right approach, according to Bryan Slaba, former president of Wagner Area Growth.

"In the end, if customers and community members want to shop local, they'll vote with their feet and their pocketbooks and we'll let that play out how it will, as we do with any other competition," said Slaba, whose term as president of Wagner Area Growth expired Thursday. "The businesses with the greatest community value will survive."

Wagner's Dollar General, if built at the proposed location at the corner of Main Street and South Dakota Highway 46, would be one of the company's 900 new stores nationally — each planned to open in fiscal year 2018.

Dollar General stores are not new to South Dakota, with the first store opening in Canton in 2005, but in The Daily Republic's coverage area, finding such a store could have proven difficult until recently, when they seemingly began sprouting in the region's small towns. Nearly all of South Dakota's Dollar General locations can be found in towns with populations of 2,000 or fewer.

Currently, there are 45 open Dollar General stores in South Dakota, with two under construction in Hamlin and Roberts counties.

And they haven't always been greeted with open arms.

After months of debate from local business owners, a Dollar General opened in October along the road leading into Wessington Springs. Business owners objected, saying small, local markets can't compete with the large chain that has more than 14,000 stores in 44 states.

There wasn't much support shown for the discount retailer throughout the building process, even from elected officials, but there was little the city could do to keep it out. Once the company had acquired the land and the correct building permits, the city was forced to approve the project or risk being sued.

With a focus on rural areas that are not targets for developments of Walmart or larger retail stores, Dollar General sells products such as food, cleaning supplies, clothing and day-to-day necessities.

And while a competing business scared the Wessington Springs grocery store owner, Ryan Jensen, it was the potential of losing community investments that was intimidating.

"Any business in Springs is great, but it's the philosophy of what they're doing to all of the smaller communities they're going into," said Jensen, owner of Springs Food Market. "They're creating a big corporation that can undercut the local businesses."

Though adamant he's not bitter about Dollar General's move to town, Jensen urged people to be aware of where their hard-earned dollars go.

When spent at Springs Food Market, money gets put back into the community in the form of donations and more, Jensen said, but he believes a person won't see that same return when buying from a national company like Dollar General.

With the building process complete and the doors open for business, Jensen said all he can do is be thankful for his customers.

"The tax revenue we get from Dollar General is great, any business is great for that, but it's the philosophy that if we have two less businesses on Main Street because of one they can't compete with, then Main Street is diminished," he said. "I don't think it will come to that, but we do appreciate our community's support throughout this conversion of having a Dollar General in Wessington Springs."

'The flavor of the month'

RF Buche is staying positive amid the Dollar General takeover.

Buche owns six grocery stores in South Dakota, many with Dollar General stores nearby.

So Buche is no stranger to the struggles associated with competing with a national chain.

"Of course, we can look at things in one of two ways. One: It is scary and it is going to affect us and there's no doubt about that," Buche said. "But I also look at it as, at the end of the day it's going to make us a better operator. Competition is good, and I certainly want to be the absolute best."

On Jan. 31, CashSmart grocery stores in Tyndall and Tripp owned by Buche will close, leaving both towns without a grocery store. Though neither is home to a Dollar General store, Tyndall does have a Family Dollar — the second-largest dollar store chain.

To compete, Buche said stores have to take advantage of the benefits of being locally-owned.

Local stores and chains have the advantage of knowing the community's needs, Buche said, and they can adjust to changing needs among its residents.

"Dollar General is kind of the flavor of the month right now, which is something we've dealt with before," Buche said. "We're in these communities and we know them, the owners aren't sitting in Tennessee or Missouri — we're here and that's a big advantage."

The chance for economic development

In Wagner, where a Dollar General store is on the horizon, the possibility of economic growth in its wake is promising.

If nothing else, Wagner Director of Economic Development Kelsey Doom said there will be more jobs available, and she hopes those who typically venture out of town to shop will be enticed to stay in Wagner.

And, if everything goes perfectly, people from out of town would be drawn in, and peruse other local stores while there.

But regardless, Doom said she hopes people realize the importance of shopping local, both to ensure the success of locally-owned businesses and to promote growth within the community.

"I honestly don't think half of the people in the community know what shopping out of town is doing to our community," Doom said, noting Wagner's recent decrease in local spending. "Everything the city is providing comes from them shopping in town, so if the silver lining is this is going to keep people from going out of town, I'm all for it."

Dollar Generals in the region

Aurora County — Plankinton.

Bon Homme County — 0 stores

Brule County — 0 stores

Buffalo County — 0 stores

Charles Mix County — Lake Andes, Platte.

Davison County — 0 stores

Douglas County — 0 stores

Gregory County — Gregory.

Hanson County — 0 stores

Hutchinson County — Parkston, Freeman.

Jerauld County — Wessington Springs.

Jones County — 0 stores

Lyman County — 0 stores

McCook County — Salem.

Miner County — Howard.

Sanborn County — 0 stores

Tripp County — Winner.