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Brother, can you spare a dollar store?

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POSTED April 2, 2013 1:19 a.m.

There was a time when there was a gas station on every corner.

Then it seemed like banks were multiplying faster than rabbits.

And now the trend is the so-called dollar stores.

Manteca’s fifth dollar store - and second Dollar General - is getting ready to open at Powers and Yosemite avenues. They seem to be popping up in Manteca with the same intensity as pizza parlors, nail salons, and check cashing places.

It reflects just how fickle retail can be these days.

Dollar General believes the new economic reality fits right into their marketing strategy. That’s why they are aiming to open 965 more stores this year. (Hopefully not all 965 will be in Manteca.)

Who knows how long they will last until they start sounding the retreat much like Blockbuster. The Internet, Netflix, and video vending machines have delivered some heavy blows to Blockbuster’s business model. Even so, perhaps the day may come when Blockbuster-type video stores are once again all the rage.

If you doubt that can’t happen, just consider what once occupied the new Dollar General Store at Yosemite and Powers avenues. It was home to one of Manteca’s first supermarkets after World War II - Purity Market. The chain was among dozens that popped up when the entire urban development model was upended and things were planned around cars and not walking.

The supermarkets replaced the old “you ring, we bring” groceries that not only catered to customers in stores but also took phone orders and employed delivery boys. The demise of the old-style markets had as much to do with price as it did with the car.

Food items were cheaper when stores had more space and could buy in volume and didn’t have to deliver.

When Webvan first rolled out almost everyone acted like it was a new way of doing things. The only difference is that the Internet and not the phone was used to place orders. And for most people - as investors soon discovered - the cost of such convenience was too expensive.

Back in the Dark Ages (that’s the 1960s for people who never have known a world where people didn’t crave Apples and bytes) it was considered blasphemy in some areas when supermarkets started carrying sundries like toothpaste and such. Drug stores retaliated by offering limited canned goods and packaged items. I still remember the Rexall pharmacist in Lincoln half apologizing to customers that he wished he didn’t have to carry grocery items. He said he had to do so in order to not let grocery stores rob all of his business. I wonder what he’d think today of full-scale pharmacies inside of supermarkets.

When the mega-chains stepped up their grocery selection - Wal-Mart, Kmart and Target - I vowed I would never do the bulk of my grocery shopping in such a store.  I figured I’d occasionally get prepackaged items when I wanted to stock up, Now I hit Target every week before dropping by SaveMart to finish up the balance of my weekly shopping list.

A few years back someone decided grocery stores less than 30,000 square feet were passé. Two in Manteca got converted into health clubs. Another was split between a paint store and thrift shop.

Given the trend Wal-Mart and its kissing cousins could be in for trouble down the road. The day is coming when perhaps every concern that passes as an essential Manteca business may be found one roof - groceries, drug store, nail salon, pizza, Mexican food, check cashing and used cars.

One thing is for sure. Such a store won’t be opening in the Blockbuster store that’s now vacant on Main at Alameda streets. Who knows, perhaps it’ll be home to Manteca’s sixth retail outlet molded in the dollar store genre.



This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209-249-3519.

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