Up in the Hollow: Wouldn’t give a nickel for a dollar store

Many of us have made the complete absence of nationally franchised commercial outlets in Rappahannock a point of pride. No Mickey D’s, no Colonel Sanders, no Jiffy Lube, no Sheetz, no Safeway, no Starbucks, no Dairy Queen, no Walgreens, no Big K, no Hair Cuttery, no nuttin’.

Yet a big mess of all those things are within a pleasant half hour drive of here – if not in Front Royal or Luray, then in Culpeper or Warrenton. We can get what we think we need there and then escape back to the sanity of right-sized living and quiet, star-filled nights.

I’ve worked up this bragging rights speech that emphasizes our specialness. “There are zero fast food joints in Rappahannock,” I say, “but we have the best food per capita in the world.” That outrageous claim is based on a county of 7,000 souls which happens to have the country’s top rated restaurant on a corner in the county seat. Then I mention several other excellent eateries and those farm-to-table entrepreneurs who provide, well, the best food per capita in the world.

So the talk of a Family Dollar store plopping down here in our little slice of paradise is enough to make a preacher cuss. Family Dollar is not only the kind of “discount chain” outfit that is purposely designed to run local mom-and-pop operations out of business, but they also have perhaps the worst record of employee treatment in the history of cynical corporate negligence.

Somehow the word “greed” comes to mind when reading of the myriad court cases and employee complaints filed against this company. A quick Google search of “Family Dollar labor problems” paints a sad, Dickensian picture of an arrogant management and a miserable workforce.

The possibility of a Family Dollar store in our county portends much more than marginally cheaper beer and cigarettes. It is the nose of the camel under the tent. Sooner or later some big shot company was bound to make a move on Rappahannock County, but that it is Family Dollar underscores the dangers of chain stores and their effect on small rural towns and their economies. Anything that any of our merchants sell will be underpriced by Family Dollar.

Their competitive tactics are like shooting fish in a barrel. And we are those fish.

The kind of corporate shark that does not care about the sensibilities and the traditions of an extraordinary community like ours is also the same kind of corporate shark that couldn’t care less about the consequences of their presence. It may be that the only legal way to prevent the appearance of these establishments is to bring our totally united voices against them.

(Yeah, I know, around here we are never going to be “totally united.” And that is a good thing, as they say. But how about just an overwhelming majority?)

In the end, Family Dollar may be just fishing around in our little barrel. But even the remote possibility of this happening should be a wake-up call to all of us who take the exceptional quality of Rappahannock life for granted. The barbarians are at the gates, but they are slicked up and buttoned down.