Dollar General Dilemma


Last updated 1/23/2020 at 2:12pm

The Borrego Springs rumor mill had it right. Dollar General is looking to open a store in Borrego Springs. Already posting help wanted ads online for an assistant store manager and retail clerks for their Borrego Springs store, proposed for the intersection of Palm Canyon Drive and Country Club Road across from the XL Gas Co.

It does seem a bit premature to be hiring. Escrow on the land acquisition hasn’t closed; will need a discretionary permit before moving one bush or rock; nothing gets built here fast; and well, it’s Borrego, and Borregans sort of like to have a say in such matters. Now that the word is out, the community, not surprisingly, is split on whether it’s a good idea to bring any big brand general store into local competition with current retail businesses, or into Borrego at all.

The way the parcel is zoned, and being that the proposed building site is out of the floodplain, Borregans will have limited opportunities to speak on the matter, so the Borrego Springs Community Sponsor Group is sending a letter to San Diego County Planning and Development Services (PDS) and encourages nonprofits, businesses and the public to do the same.

“I like their stuff, it’s cheap,” says one resident who currently loads up basic supplies for the wife and kids at a Dollar General store an hour’s drive away in Indio. Low-income Borregans would surely benefit from low prices on essentials locally.

With a Family Dollar only 30 miles away at the Salton Sea, some locals wonder if there is enough year-round business to sustain two dollar stores so close, especially the one in Borrego. Most concerning for many is the impact on existing general merchandise and convenience stores already in town.

From a resident on the local economic impacts of a Dollar General, “I’m concerned they will undercut the prices on so many items that the local stores will be squeezed out of existence.” A prominent but unnamed Borregan added more for consideration, “If there was a clear benefit to having a big box store like the one proposed, that’s fine, but I don’t see such a benefit yet.”

Dollar General is not a big box store like Walmart or Costco, but it is a chain that has over 15,000 stores across the United States. In business since 1936 it has about the same number of locations as do Starbucks and McDonald’s domestically. All three have business models that work, for them, but Borrego does not seem to fit the target demographic for any of these cookie-cutter franchise operations. The fit is what most people express concern over.

If you’re looking for cheap coffee, a Dollar General will have it. They’ll also have a cell phone you can buy for $129, only you might have to wait a few days to get it shipped here.

The dilemma for Borregans, cheap prices on many lower quality non-brand items and a few specialty items with volume buying power, Dollar General has a history under-pricing local merchants out of business in small towns. If they put Borrego’s other general stores out of business, there go the jobs, too. If Dollar General has misjudged the fit, their franchisee goes out of business, leaving Borrego a vacant eyesore on a high visibility corner. Having driven out the competition first, where will the locals go for the basics then?

The other stores could focus on selling different merchandise than Dollar General usually carries, like fresh produce and meats, but even that is an iffy strategy for success because some Dollar General stores sell those items now, too.

At the request of the Borrego Springs Community Sponsor Group Chair, Becky Falk, PDS Project Manager Denise Russell was at the Sponsor Group’s Jan. 2 meeting to answer questions. About 60 people showed up, none in favor of a Dollar General coming to Borrego.

On the ‘Borrego Springs 92004’ Facebook group page, Dollar General quickly became a hot topic, and the reviews mixed. Some people are hopeful the town gets one, especially year around fixed-income seniors and families with children, but most comments have been against the project, as well.

The Sponsor Group voted to send a letter to PDS expressing the concerns raised at the meeting.

Other organizations have committed to do the same. With many planning decisions yet to be made on boundary issues, grading, and construction, all seems dependent on getting local voices heard by PDS, both for and against.

Whether you are pro or con, have questions or suggestions, put it in writing to Denise Russell, PDS Project Manager,, 5510 Overland Avenue, Suite 110, San Diego, California 92123.