Dollar General

By Peter Anderson

Coming Soon! Dollar General! Yes, the encroachment of the corporate world is upon us here in the northern tier of Saguache County! Sure there are a few syndicated gas stations in Saguache and Hooper, and a couple of dollar stores down in Center, but for the most part, the world of franchise shopping and dining is something we are used to finding only in more densely populated counties. Many people here like it that way. “I’d rather drive an hour to the strip than have the strip come to us,” said a friend in Moffat, where Dollar General is currently building its new store.

The new Dollar General is under construction at the junction of Highway 17 and County Road T. This location is significant, at least locally, because it is just across the highway from two retail cannabis outlets, one on either side of the road which runs east toward Crestone and the formidable barrier of the Sangre de Cristos. Where before it was easy to pass this turn-off at night if you weren’t paying attention, now it is hard to miss the red neon of the ATM machines and the illuminated green crosses promising pre-rolled joints and gummy bears and a smorgasbord of other cannabis diversions. Over time, I have gotten used to driving the “Ganja Gateway,” which seems an appropriate port-of-entry for end-of-the-roaders like me heading home to the altered state of Crestonia. I’m not sure how I feel about the soon-to-be-manifested presence of Dollar General.

I know that it will be a welcome convenience for some residents of Moffat who previously had to make a fifteen or twenty minute drive into Crestone or Saguache for a gallon of milk. For the stoners growing weed in the 4-20 subdivision recently annexed by the Moffat town council and other nearby locations in what is becoming the hoophouse mecca of Colorado, it will offer an abundance of sweet and salty munchies relief. I have friends on fixed incomes who may save a few cents on corporately-purchased bulk items which our mom and pop grocery and hardware stores cannot provide at the same low, low price! And even though Dollar Generals do not usually employ as many folks as local mom and pops who may or may not survive with the new competition, I know that D.G. will provide – Now Hiring! – some low-wage employment. I understand all that.

I wonder, though, if the appearance of the Dollar General foretells the demise of values that are maybe a little less tangible than dollars and cents – qualities of life less easily expressed or explained. I don’t think an appreciation of space and silence and the night sky as seen from Highway 17 is limited to any one community or demographic in Saguache County. Nor is an appreciation of the businesses which began in our communities, which are owned and run by our neighbors, and which support our high school fund drives and our Fourth of July celebrations. I believe these are widely held values in this part of Colorado.

I am not suggesting here that the appearance of Dollar General is the beginning of a corporate apocalypse. Many of their managers and employees will be good neighbors. The company’s long standing tradition of contributing to organizations that support literacy may benefit our communities. Who knows, maybe Dollar General will even help us build a long overdue new library here on the eastern edge of Saguache County. Even though almost all of my dollars will be spent in locally-owned and operated businesses, I will likely seek out some cheap convenience there from time to time.

And we should thank Dollar General for inviting us to consider the future in Saguache County and the qualities of life we value. If you are eager for the likely influx of other corporate “conveniences,” don’t worry, be happy. If, on the other hand, you would prefer, like my friend in Moffat, to “drive an hour to the strip rather than have the strip come to us,” then maybe you would agree that our town councils, planning commissions, and anyone else who cares about the way we grow into the future, have their work cut out.

Peter Anderson recently retired from teaching in order to become a full-time word wrangler. He lives in Crestone.