Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. 99 Cent Answer to ‘Food Deserts’

 

Who really is in touch with the poor, the Fort Worth mayor and city council or the 99 Cent Only CEO? The Fort Worth city council is moving down the tracks towards imposing limitations on low-cost stores, generally labeled “dollar stores.” They are doing so for two stated reasons: blight and “food deserts.” Any citizen can refute the second claim by a simple internet search. Any citizen living in the area could do the media and their own city council’s job, by simply walking through a 99 Cents Only store with their phone camera rolling in video mode.*

The very deepest discount stores operate like every other business that is not in bed with the government. That is, they identify locations where they can sell enough goods to make a profit. By definition, a dollar store is operating on the very thinnest of margins, so they have to consistently offer the stuff people want. Happily, this results in at least one such business offering the very items we are perennially told are being denied to the poorest among us.

The Dollar Tree store chain fills smaller retail spaces in older strip mall retail properties. It is also more than just a place to grab some paper plates, napkins and plastic utensils for a party. Many of these stores include a frozen and refrigerated food section. The frozen section always stocks vegetables and fruit, in addition to frozen prepared foods. The grocery aisle always includes rice, beans, dried pasta, canned tomato products and more. In short, you can put together nutritious meals from that small store, which you can get in and out of much more quickly than a supermarket.

Dollar Trees with Frozen Food

Each location showing on the map has frozen/refrigerated foods and accepts the government debit card that replaced food stamps. Of course, the selection is quite limited, but the invisible hand of actual cheapskates (like me) and those who barely make it through the month, often with government assistance in the form of food stamps (now “EBT”), has moved a competitor to answer the real demand for more groceries and fresh produce. I give you the 99 Cents Only stores:

Yes, that is in Fort Worth, Texas. Yes, there are more stores in the area. Everything is sold by the piece or cleanly packaged in plastic so you know what you are getting for 99 cents. The fresh produce generally needs to be used within a few days, but that fits the needs and habits of the shoppers. If you have to walk home or catch a bus, you are back to the old model, before supermarkets drove the small mom and pop grocers out of business. You likely buy for the next few days.

Look at the way this company approaches its customers on the internet. You are not marginal, you are not settling for this, you are a frugal bargain hunter who should be proud to be part of a community, the “99ers.” Look at this pitch on fresh produce:

Fresh Produce

Find deals on fresh produce like they grow on trees!

What happens when fresh vegetables and fruit, even organics, get 99’d? Your house is always overflowing with fresh produce. Fill lunchboxes. Feed someone grapes. Make someone feed you grapes. It may even bring out your artistic side and inspire you to paint a still life. People react to the bounty in different ways when there’s suddenly no limit to how much fresh produce you can have around.

Always wanted a pet gorilla but had concerns about your banana budget? Fear no more. Bring home a Silverback without the usual concerns about keeping him well fed while he watches TV on the recliner. Or maybe you just have kids. Regardless, our deals on bananas are always “Bananas.”

You’re young, Millennial and rolling in Avocado toast. Show your parents and the world that avocado toast fits just fine into your budget. We’ve even made it so Gen X, Y, Z and whatever the really new one is will want to get in on the Avocado action so we can all get on the same page. When you can buy organic avocados like they’re an everyday food, for Everyone, we believe you can feel squishy green goodness all around and make the world a better…..Nah, 99 avocado deals are too good for them. Let them find their own thing!

You never know what’s new and fresh that just came in but there’s plenty to keep demanding 2 year-olds, 4 year-olds, 14 year-olds and even 44 year-olds who all like different things, happy.

Contrast this to every media report and every city council utterance. Note that the supposedly well-meaning public “servants” always come back to central planning, regulations, and a preference to answer the problem or “crisis” with government, government favored business, or politically allied non-profit groups.

So, a move to limit store locations and to dictate what they stock is moving forward in Fort Worth, one of the last supposedly conservative large metropolitan areas. That same Texas “conservative” crew apparently never managed to get past “studying” amending Fort Worth city ordinances so that small entrepreneurs could take a pushcart or small panel truck into neighborhoods, selling fresh produce like they were operating an ice cream truck. I linked the relevant current ordinance chapter, and invite you to consider the “farmers markets” section.

Consider the current local law. Consider the announced desire to restrict dollar stores as supposedly driving out other, preferred (because their brands are higher status) businesses. Perhaps, take a listen to the Mark Davis Show podcast on dollar store regulation today. Consider the soundbites. Then look at the text, images, and links above. Who really is in touch with the poor, the Fort Worth mayor and city council, or the 99 Cent Only CEO?


*A text-based visual tour of a grocery trip to a 99Cent store:

Grab a shopping cart outside.

Enter and turn hard right. (Of course, you should turn hard right!)

Walk along the front wall shelves, on your right shoulder. See the pasta sauces, all name brand. Now see all the shelves of dried pastas, from regular, to whole wheat, to spinach, to Omega-3 enriched. Rice: white, brown, parboiled. Dried beans of all sorts. Don’t run into the side wall! You are looking at all the standard condiments.

Turn left. (Sorry but that is how geometry works.)

Look left: canned fruit, peanut butter, jelly, honey. Look right: vinegars, oils, salsa, Latin American food canned goods.

Move along towards the back wall.

Look left: baking goods from box mixes to all the raw ingredients. Coconut milk? Yup. Look right: canned vegetables and beans.

Keep looking right: Hamburger helper/rice/mac-and-cheese boxes. Canned meats (tuna, sardines, salmon, generic Spam, Vienna sausages), followed by an impressive array of spices, especially larger packages of peppers and other items you need for spicier foods. Don’t run into the back wall!

Turn left. (Sorry but that is still how geometry works.)

Straight ahead are the fresh produce displays. You just passed the fresh bread shelves as you dashed to grab a bunch of bananas! Yes, there is fresh milk in the refrigerator case on the back wall.

Notice how efficient this is, how quickly you can grab what you need for healthy meals, without wandering the aisles. Yes, there are other aisles, oriented front-to-back, stocked with breakfast foods, coffee, tea, other beverages, snacks, and shelf-stable desserts.

As you head to the front to check out with a human being, perhaps you’ll grab a fresh toothbrush, dental floss, and tube of toothpaste, with recognized brands all for … $0.99. Is your tube of Colgate really better if you pay $3 for it? Sure there is plastic junk in the store, and there are the sorts of cleaning supplies you need to keep your own place, or maybe the places you are paid to clean, clean.

Published in Domestic Policy
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There are 30 comments.

  1. Tex929rr Coolidge

    There is a Dollar General in an adjacent small town, which before then only had a small chain grocery store and convenience stores. I read a WSJ article about how carefully they pick their locations (set minimum distances from Walmart’s, etc.) and how prices are set to capture and keep customers.

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-dollar-general-became-rural-americas-store-of-choice-1512401992

    • #1
    • October 10, 2019, at 2:39 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  2. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher

    Evil.

    • #2
    • October 10, 2019, at 4:14 PM PST
    • 1 like
  3. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Evil.

    Elaborate!

    • #3
    • October 10, 2019, at 4:51 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  4. The Reticulator Member

    I am very disappointed that the Ricochet powers-that-be gave us a Domestic Policy category but not a Local Government category. 

    • #4
    • October 10, 2019, at 7:10 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  5. Arahant Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    I am very disappointed that the Ricochet powers-that-be gave us a Domestic Policy category but not a Local Government category.

    That’s what tags are for.

    • #5
    • October 10, 2019, at 9:36 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  6. Arahant Member

    Clifford A. Brown: Always wanted a pet gorilla but had concerns about your banana budget? Fear no more. Bring home a Silverback without the usual concerns about keeping him well fed while he watches TV on the recliner. Or maybe you just have kids. Regardless, our deals on bananas are always “Bananas.”

    That’s all I need to love these people. They’re hilarious.

    • #6
    • October 10, 2019, at 9:36 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  7. The Reticulator Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    I am very disappointed that the Ricochet powers-that-be gave us a Domestic Policy category but not a Local Government category.

    That’s what tags are for.

    Then remove the categories. 

    • #7
    • October 10, 2019, at 9:39 PM PST
    • Like
  8. Arahant Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    I am very disappointed that the Ricochet powers-that-be gave us a Domestic Policy category but not a Local Government category.

    That’s what tags are for.

    Then remove the categories.

    Tell @max, not me.

    • #8
    • October 10, 2019, at 9:48 PM PST
    • 1 like
  9. Judge Mental Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    I am very disappointed that the Ricochet powers-that-be gave us a Domestic Policy category but not a Local Government category.

    That’s what tags are for.

    Then remove the categories.

    Tell max, not me.

    Haven’t I seen Max rail against his own local government? You’d think he would have added t for his own use.

    • #9
    • October 10, 2019, at 9:49 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  10. Arahant Member

    Judge Mental (View Comment):
    Haven’t I seen Max rail against his own local government? You’d think he would have added t for his own use.

    Good point. We should go into some of his old posts and see how he categorized things.

    • #10
    • October 10, 2019, at 9:52 PM PST
    • 1 like
  11. Arahant Member

    Hmmn…Max doesn’t even use the categories.

    Tags: Local Government

    Tags: Freedom of Information, Right to Know

    • #11
    • October 10, 2019, at 10:03 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  12. The Reticulator Member

    Oh. Food deserts, rather thsn food desserts.

    Do the city fathers explain their allegation that food stores cause a lack of food? 

     

    • #12
    • October 10, 2019, at 11:17 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  13. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Oh. Food deserts, rather thsn food desserts.

    Do the city fathers explain their allegation that food stores cause a lack of food?

    The assertion, which I refute, is that this class of stores does not provide “healthy” food. I demonstrate that at least two of this class, inside the relevant city area, do have frozen or fresh produce.

    • #13
    • October 10, 2019, at 11:35 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  14. Weeping Member

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Oh. Food deserts, rather thsn food desserts.

    Do the city fathers explain their allegation that food stores cause a lack of food?

    The assertion, which I refute, is that this class of stores does not provide “healthy” food. I demonstrate that at least two of this class, inside the relevant city area, do have frozen or fresh produce.

    So according to them, no easily available food at all is better than simply no easily available healthy food. Sigh.

    • #14
    • October 11, 2019, at 12:05 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  15. Vance Richards Member

    I don’t get it. People are complaining that there are too many of these stores, but they are all making money. If people don’t “need” these stores, then who is shopping there?

    • #15
    • October 11, 2019, at 5:24 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  16. Jon1979 Lincoln

    The general rule of thumb for modern supermarkets is one store for roughly every 10,000 people, depending on the size of the store. Out here in West Texas, HEB won’t build the smaller stores they have back in the central and eastern parts of the state, and 25,000 people apparently is their cutoff point, and other chains like Albertson’s or Kroger may have their own formulations on how far out from the warehouse they’re willing to go with their stores.

    That means for smaller towns, the dollar stores can be the only option for food other than a single supermarket, which may not be in their part of town, while the other store is closer. And the railing in recent years against the stores seems to come mainly from people nesting in the larger urban areas who don’t need to use the stores themselves and complain that they shouldn’t be allowed in poor areas of big cities, or in smaller towns (they also appear to believe the grocery chains should be forced to locate in those areas even though supermarkets operate on tiny profit margins on what they sell. You’re not going to get a grocery chain to build a 50,000 square foot store and operate it at a loss because you don’t like the 10,000 square foot dollar store being in the area).

    • #16
    • October 11, 2019, at 5:49 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  17. Susan Quinn Contributor

    We periodically shop at Wal-Mart (which I know is not the same) for a number of reasons. You can’t imagine my husband’s delight when he discovered that Wal-Mart was the only store that carried the Oscar Meyer Pickle and Pimento Loaf (that’s meat for you young kids). We now make periodic trips there to store up!

    • #17
    • October 11, 2019, at 7:00 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  18. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Evil.

    Elaborate!

    Tyrants. They are deciding they know what is best for these other people where they live. Let the people there make up their minds. 

    • #18
    • October 11, 2019, at 12:40 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  19. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Judge Mental (View Comment):
    Haven’t I seen Max rail against his own local government? You’d think he would have added t for his own use.

    Good point. We should go into some of his old posts and see how he categorized things.

    Is there a category for thinking up things for @Max to do? 

    • #19
    • October 11, 2019, at 3:58 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  20. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    Vance Richards (View Comment):

    I don’t get it. People are complaining that there are too many of these stores, but they are all making money. If people don’t “need” these stores, then who is shopping there?

    The misguided people for the wrong reasons. 

    If they would just stop taking matters into their own hands, the government would be able to up their benefits. 

    • #20
    • October 11, 2019, at 4:00 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  21. Arahant Member

    TBA (View Comment):
    Is there a category for thinking up things for @Max to do? 

    This one:

    https://ricochet.com/groups/bug-reports/

    • #21
    • October 11, 2019, at 4:01 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  22. Eridemus Coolidge

    Dollar Tree serves a purpose, as proven by the fact I know where they are thriving 1/2 a block away from the high-priced high choice of goods stores. DT is usually crowded and restocks continually. This tells me that there must be customers not served by the place with all the gourmet items.

    Aldi used to fall somewhere in between, but in my last visit, I felt like it had drifted into a higher price direction.

    • #22
    • October 12, 2019, at 3:15 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  23. Skyler Coolidge

    What’s all this talk about food desserts? I love desserts. Sure, you can’t live on desserts alone, they say, but I say you can sure as heck try! My favorite is strawberry ice cream, but mint chocolate chip is good too. And Mom’s chocolate cake with vanilla frosting is great too. I’m also partial to apple pies, you just can’t make a bad one. I like cookies too. Man, give me a snickerdoodle and I’m a happy boy.

    Wait. You mean desert? I thought it was a typo. Never mind.

    • #23
    • October 12, 2019, at 3:17 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  24. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    Skyler (View Comment):

    What’s all this talk about food desserts? I love desserts. Sure, you can’t live on desserts alone, they say, but I say you can sure as heck try! My favorite is strawberry ice cream, but mint chocolate chip is good too. And Mom’s chocolate cake with vanilla frosting is great too. I’m also partial to apple pies, you just can’t make a bad one. I like cookies too. Man, give me a snickerdoodle and I’m a happy boy.

    Wait. You mean desert? I thought it was a typo. Never mind.

    Sweet potato pie and shut my mouth.” 

    “Shoo fly, don’t bother me,” while I’m enjoying my shoo fly pie.

    I’m not sure about the apple pie claim, seen some store-bought with more sugary filler then fruit, but my father makes an awesome one, precisely because he stuffs the pie dish full of apples, no filler.

    And any pie is kicked up a notch with ice cream and a good cup o joe.

    • #24
    • October 12, 2019, at 5:20 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  25. Randy Weivoda Moderator

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Evil.

    Elaborate!

    Tyrants. They are deciding they know what is best for these other people where they live. Let the people there make up their minds.

    Yup. I don’t know why we grant local governments the right to exclude businesses that are legal but whom the city leaders find distasteful.

    • #25
    • October 12, 2019, at 8:04 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  26. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    The local progressive do gooders here in Lake County Calif are on this roll to prevent any Dollar General stores from coming in.

    Apparently they are not the type of store our county needs.

    What I don’t get is this: we are annually challenged by huge numbers of wild fires. This unfortunately makes it very difficult for small mom and pop stores to stay in business. The fires hit our region in the summer, when it is both expected and needed by local business people to take in mucho dinero from the tourists. But that cannot be done when everyone is evacuated from Main Street for a week or two.

    Dollar General has the kind of backing that can keep these stores operating even when the mom and pop stores are floundering. So that way some people are employed, given a paycheck and health insurance.

    Why it is that these local virtuous social justice types who are intent on keeping Dollar General out of the region never notice the constant empty store fronts lining our community these days, I don’t know.

    Maybe the halos they wear from all their do gooding keep slipping over their eyes, so they don’t notice the empty store fronts. Or else maybe they have adjusted their halos to the point of excruciating tightness until their brains no longer work.

    In typing this out, I notice the remarkable similarity of do gooders to doo gooders.

    • #26
    • October 13, 2019, at 1:19 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  27. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    The one bad thing about the Dollar Tree types of places is that they make all other stores seem totally unreasonable. $2.95 for some Oreo cookies? Why?

    Six bucks for a back scratcher? Or four bucks for tube socks? Why? Why? Why?

    The dollar stores even sometimes have one dollar rib eye steaks. Sort of a bit more rubbery than I care for, but the dog says, “Yum” so what do I care if she eats them all? They’re a dollar!

    • #27
    • October 13, 2019, at 1:29 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  28. Eridemus Coolidge

    @CarolJoy 

    And speaking of desserts, they have those boxed single slices of chocolate, lemon, sometimes other flavor pies for $1…you don’t have to buy a whole one like in the big stores.

    • #28
    • October 13, 2019, at 6:33 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  29. carcat74 Member

    Randy Weivoda (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Evil.

    Elaborate!

    Tyrants. They are deciding they know what is best for these other people where they live. Let the people there make up their minds.

    Yup. I don’t know why we grant local governments the right to exclude businesses that are legal but whom the city leaders find distasteful.

    Case in point—GUN STORES…..

    • #29
    • October 13, 2019, at 7:00 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  30. carcat74 Member

    Is it Dollar General? I get confused! Anyway, they carry awesome fudge dipped shortbread cookies for a dollar. And, the company making them donates that dollar to a kids’ literacy program—how cool is that? The snickerdoodles aren’t bad, either—maybe not as soft as bakery, or even Archway, but they taste like snickderdoodles. That ain’t bad for a buck fifty! 

    You like Diet Mountain Dew? DG carries Clover Valley brand ‘Mountain Explosion’, an acceptable substitute. Maybe a tad sweeter, but a 6 packet box costs $1. Certainly cheaper than the $1.78 Walmart gets for a 2lt, and saves space in the frig.

    • #30
    • October 13, 2019, at 7:20 AM PST
    • 3 likes