Editorial: Worth a conversation?

The silence, as they say, has been deafening. Two weeks ago this newspaper published a front-page story on the possibility of a Family Dollar store rising from the bucolic landscape that is Rappahannock’s, and yet . . .

No outraged letters to the editor. No local citizens stopping by our office or calling on the phone to wonder how to protest. No elected officials organizing opposition.

It’s particularly puzzling given the past concern and articulate agitation generated by everything from cell towers and athletic field lights to, most recently, affordable housing in the county seat, e.g. “We didn’t move all the way out here so that we would have to look at an eyesore of a Family Dollar store!”

Perhaps behind the scenes, as what happened with the affordable housing controversy in Washington, a group of local investors is making a competing offer on the Family Dollar site next to the bank on U.S. 211? If so, they could then franchise the site to a similar store, like Dollar Tree, but “retain local control?”

Whatever retail establishment (if any) occupies the commercially zoned site might indeed be welcome if it would mean less driving out of the county to obtain basic necessities, from medicine to food staples.

In an ideal world, that would mean a pharmacy together with a well-stocked grocery (including a showcase for local foods).

Instead, what a Family Dollar store’s inventory will feature are lots of unhelpful and unhealthy potato chips, soft drinks, beauty aids and poorly made tchotchkes from China.

And you can bet that the architecture of the newly built retail store won’t be said to be Virginia Piedmont vernacular (reflecting indigenous building materials and local traditions). And in that respect, the new store might fit right in with the existing auto junkyard next to the bank, which no one seems to notice.

But aren’t the issues raised by a possible Family Dollar store worth at least some notice – and an ensuing conversation?

Walter Nicklin



  1. I am completely with Ben Jones on this one (see his letter in the printed edition or his comment on the website). Yes to affordable housing, especially in our villages, and no to run-amok chain development that can destroy a community.Read more . . .

  2. I am completely with Ben Jones on this one. Yes to affordable housing, especially in our villages, and no to run-amok chain development that can destroy a community.

    And I must point out to D. Heider that part of living in the country is knowing your neighbor and be a little creative. No cookie sheets in the house (which, I must say, is a hard concept for me to understand: NO cookie sheet in the house?) So… how about using the oven pan? or a board wrapped in several layers of sturdy foil? Don’t you have neighbors or friends you can borrow from (and thank them with a few of the delicious cookies that you baked!). The fact that you could not find a cookie sheet to buy in the county is not a reason to approve a Dollar General store. Assuming they really want to come here. Our 7,500 residents are scattered over 267 square miles, and for many going to Culpeper, Front Royal or Warrenton would be more convenient than coming to such a store in Washington anyway.

  3. Rappahannock County needs a Family Dollar about as much as a horse needs feathers. It has nothing to do with snobbery, nothing to do with affordable housing (which we do need) and nothing to do with elitism. It has everything to do with the unique character and appeal of our county. If visitors can’t find, say a cookie sheet, they might want to buy some great homemade cookies baked fresh right here. Most country people have learned to do for themselves for generations, and really
    don’t want to trade this quiet rural life for strip malls, fast food joints and the blight that is common all around us. If you don’t like it….move on. Don’t inflict this kind of economically destructive chain on our “mom and pop” traditions. And don’t insult us while you are doing it.

    Ben Jones

  4. I am not a resident of Rappahannock, but my daughter is. I drive 180 miles to see my grandson and find it quite disconcerting that if I want to do something as simple as bake cookies for him, I must travel at least 15-20 miles one way. I know this, because my daughter didn’t have a cookie sheet, and though I hit every little convenience store, antique store and gift shop from the Sperryville/Washington area, I was unable to find what I needed. The poor child had to wait until I went home and sent cookies through the mail. As to the comment that 7,900 people couldn’t support a Family Dollar, I assure you they could. The township where I live in PA has only 2,500 people and is within 7 miles of a galleria and major shopping district, yet our Dollar General thrives. With the high cost of gas, it seems to me that the good people of Rappahannock County, both monied and poor would be well-served by the Family Dollar.

  5. I wouldn’t like to see Family Dollar Store in the county. I don’t think that it fits with the character of the county. I agree that most people go to one of the surrounding towns to shop and it is not needed here. I know I wouldn’t shop there so am wondering if they have done any type of study of whether it would be profitable for them to open shop here.

  6. I highly doubt there’s a big enough customer base for a Family Dollar Store to be viable with less then 7500 residents in the county. The small stores can survive because they sell a varied stock of day to day supplies and food, but I just don’t see the county population buying enough to be viable for Family Dollar. Another point is that everybody has to go to a town for their main food shopping trips anyway, and they all have a Dollar Store, or equivalent.
    The only franchise I see as viable here is a 7-11, but we already have equivalent convenience stores, and splitting the available customers wouldn’t be enough for either to survive.

  7. Maybe Family Dollar is a bit downscale for Rappahannock and the image it tries to maintain. On the other hand I know there are many people living there who aren’t part of the monied crowd and they deserve to have their needs met, too.

  8. I personally believe that seeking the least expensive alternative at a Dollar Store to be a limiting experience. New businesses need to be respectful of the unique character of Rappahannock. On the other hand, I think the county is ill-served by portraying an elitist or intolerant image.

    Perhaps good and tasteful review by the zoning commission is appropriate.

  9. If that sort of garbage can get into the county, then it’s doomed.

    Did someone decide to start catering to the “affordable housing” crowd?

    I’m worried about the day I come back to visit and find section 8 housing.

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