Dollar Stores Prey on the Poor: Communities are doing what they can to impose restrictions.

AuthorSainato, Michael


"I understand people have concerns and criticisms because they feel this is a free market and a capitalist society," Griffin, a member of the Cleveland City Council, tells The Progressive. "But we feel that there is a price of doing business in the city of Cleveland." While the city doesn't want to be "overbearing," he says, it does want to hold bad operators accountable.

By some measures, Cleveland, Ohio, is the second-poorest city in America, behind only Detroit, Michigan. Nearly 54 percent of children there live in poverty. A report conducted by the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity at the University of Minnesota Law School in April 2019 found that Cleveland's neighborhoods are experiencing economic decline and the city's low-income population is growing despite losing 10 percent of its overall population since 2000.

These conditions have opened up Cleveland's neighborhoods to the proliferation of dollar stores--more than thirty-five in all. On the surface, this may seem like an innocuous development. Dollar stores offer what are billed as low prices--many items really do cost a buck--on common goods, from snacks to school supplies. But critics say dollar stores contribute to declines in economic and public health as they displace full-service grocery stores, eliminate jobs, and undercut competition from other retailers and small businesses.

Across the United States, economically distressed communities are pushing back against high concentrations of dollar stores and their negative impacts.

"It's kind of like a corporate bodega on steroids," says Charles Bromley, co-director of Shaker Square Alliance, a community group that has opposed the development of new dollar stores in Cleveland.

"Their whole strategy is to go to a neighborhood that has a lot of poor people who don't have access to transportation and can only walk to and from the dollar store," Bromley says. "The big stores, the chains, are pulling out of these neighborhoods."

Bromley's group began to protest dollar stores in response to complaints about overflowing trash at a dollar store in Cleveland's Buckeye-Shaker neighborhood. Community groups like Shaker Square Alliance were successful in their effort to open a full-service grocery store, Simon's Supermarket, in the neighborhood in October 2018. But Bromley says the store is struggling--despite receiving $1 million in subsidies to...

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