Rural Blog: Kentucky historian laments the passing of country stores as large chains expand

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The Rural Blog started reporting the impact of chain dollar stores on small, rural stores more than a year ago, and the trend seems to have accelerated, with reports recently from New England and Virginia, which noted that Dollar General Corp. has almost as many locations as McDonald’s.

The closing of a small store in his neighborhood prompted David Cross, a lawyer and historian in Albany, Ky., to write a piece for the weekly Clinton County News, which he titled “The Little Centers of Commerce and Community.”

Barb Pierce rang up a sale as her store in Albany, Ky.,
neared the end of the line. (Clinton County News photo)

It told of many other stores that have closed in the town of 2,000 and county of 10,000, one of the most rural in the United States. Albany is home to a Dollar General Market, the company’s expanded version of its original stores.

“Sadly, the days of the community country store are nearly gone,” Cross writes. “There are many factors to the demise of such little places; people are more mobile, the world is on wheels, and there are Dollar General Stores every few miles. We all have memories of our visits to the little country store, where talk was the most important commodity.

“Let’s hope the little stores that remain hang on for a long time; they’re not just the closest place to get a soft drink or a loaf of bread, they are also the place where you might actually get to know your neighbors.”

Bryce Oates and Tim Marema report for The Daily Yonder, “Rural households are about 25 percent more likely than urban ones to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), rural grocers say the federal nutrition program is an important part of the revenue that keeps their stores in business.”

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The Rural Blog is a digest of events, trends, issues, ideas and journalism from and about rural America, from the IRJCI, based at the University of Kentucky. The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues is an extension program for rural journalists and news outlets. It takes no positions on issues and advocates only for strong news coverage, responsible commentary and things that make them possible, such as open-government laws. For more information see www.RuralJournalism.org.

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