The needler in the haystack.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A new kind of dollar store opens in Plainfield


Dollar General has opened at West Front and Madison Avenue.
With the opening of its first-ever Plainfield store, Dollar General is kicking the downtown Plainfield retail scene up a notch.

This is nothing like your grandmother's dollar store of yore, dingy and dirty, with outdated merchandise.

I explored the new store Friday afternoon after I saw customers coming out carrying bright yellow bags holding their purchases.  Yellow and black is the theme here, in everything from signage to employee uniforms to plastic bags. The store is brightly lit, immaculate, with overhead signage reminiscent of the best drugstore design. There is ample merchandise, though brand depth is limited. Prices seem reasonable enough, but did not strike me as cutthroat bargains (this may be a followup exercise).

When the Park-Madison Pharmacy moved from its former retail space at West Front and Madison to the former Sears building a block further west (see story here), I wondered what would happen to the vacant storefront. The two retail buildings on the Park-Madison block were developed by the Union County Improvement Authority and are managed by AST. Tenants have been noticeably scarce, many having gone out of business over the past few years and some apparently subdividing their space to reduce the rent exposure.

But when the pharmacy and the ACE store moved out (ACE moved to East Front Street) and John Armbrister's Tax John tax preparation center moved to the east end of the building, it seemed something b-i-g might be afoot.

In August, the entryway was expanded (seeing how thin the exteriors walls really are only confirmed my hunch that 'modern' retail buildings are more like stage sets than substantial architecture). Then electrical crews were seen rewiring the interior. Next there were workmen on scaffolding working their way around the building, giving the stucco frieze where retailer's signs had hung a fresh even coat and covering up the old signage holes.

Something was up, but what?

Then a couple of weeks ago there was a card table set up out front with a sign taped to it, 'Dollar General Job Applications'. There were lines of applicants for a couple of days and then the table was gone. So they are hiring local -- that's a good thing.

In two days' time, the Dollar General sign was up, the shelving installed and merchandise unpacked and shelved.

And without fanfare, the store is open for business.

The Dollar General operation puts the two Family Dollar stores to shame, making them look more like the old-fashioned dollar stores than they did before this opening.

Plainfield also has several small, independently owned dollar stores of the old-fashioned type (I sometimes shop in the one across from the YWCA).

The difference though is that Dollar General is a publicly traded company (#89 of the world's top 250 retailers, see here) much more reminiscent of CVS, Kohl's or Lowes in terms of its scale and merchandising muscle.

At any rate, it is going to amp up retail downtown, though probably without attracting the Westfield crowd, meaning we'll not be faced with creeping Stepfordism just yet.


-- Dan Damon [follow]

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.

4 comments:

Ron said...

Two other grand openings you may have missed. a Party supply store next to the Dairy Queen and a Portuguese restaurant in the old Queen City Diner location, both on South Ave.

Rob said...

so true...the last thing we would want to look like is Westfield..I'm mean, where would the bums drink and urinate in public if not downtown Plainfield.

Bob said...

I haven't had a chance to check this store out, and considering how the Park/Madison stores are generally very ghetto, it will be a pleasure to see something of better quality there.

Anonymous said...

Great. Just what Plainfield needs, another dollar store. Your "Stepfordism" comment makes it sound like you don't want this city to move forward. What in the world is wrong with attracting people who have money to spend? Unbelievable.