The Water Cooler – Cities Around The Country Banning Dollar Stores

January 13, 2020 12:00 pm · 67 comments

The “Water Cooler” is a feature on where we ask you a question or provide a topic, and you talk about it.

The “Water Cooler” will be up Monday-Friday in the noon hour.

Several cities around the country have banned, or are attempting to ban “dollar stores” due to the lack of fresh food selection.

QUESTION: Do you think “Dollar Stores” (Dollar Tree, Dollar General, $.99 store, etc.) should be banned, or do you think they’re a good option for those who maybe can’t afford everything at stores like Safeway or Lucky?

Talk about it….

S January 13, 2020 at 12:01 PM


Silva January 13, 2020 at 12:03 PM

That’s just evil. Of course there are people who need that option.

Chicken Little January 13, 2020 at 12:04 PM

If there’s a demand for it, and stores can make money selling it, the only solution is to ban it. Makes perfect sense.

Led January 13, 2020 at 11:31 PM


Dorothy January 13, 2020 at 12:08 PM

Lots of people depend on these types of stores for a lot of other things besides food. If they are all so worried about how “fresh” the food is, just ban the fresh food and leave the freezer stuff.

Didn’t realize Lucky & Safeway was so worried about how the poorer people didn’t/couldn’t buy their higher priced produce. Maybe I’m not poor but I don’t buy from Lucky, Safeway, or the dollar stores for fresh or simi fresh food.

Kentucky Derby January 13, 2020 at 12:09 PM

Banning a dollar store (anywhere) is ridiculous. You don’t have to be broke or cheap to shop there. Everyone is entitled to save money. I don’t think people go there for fresh food. And some stores have fresh produce. I’m told the 99 cent stores do.

I don’t shop at these stores, but I wish they had them back in the day when we needed to save money. Years ago, all they had was junk.

JazzMan January 13, 2020 at 4:14 PM

When I was on disability for almost 2 yrs, they were a god send. I esploke the .99 cent store on Clayton Rd. Usually a decent selection of fresh produce.

Turn n Burn January 13, 2020 at 12:09 PM

I like the dollar stores. Just always check the expiration date. Sometimes it’s a hit or miss with fresh produce, but I think it that way at most stores. I’ve bought milk at Sams club and had it go bad within 3 days. And sometimes Foodmax doesn’t always have the best produce. I just went and bought a container of Heavy Cream for a dollar. Good until Feb 2020. Cheaper then buying it at Safeway, and I don’t have to walk over the Hobo’s near the front entrance.

Superstitious Aloysius January 13, 2020 at 12:11 PM

The NANNY NATION lives! All hail the NANNY!

Dawg January 13, 2020 at 12:12 PM

Personally, I don’t buy food from any of the dollar type stores, but I don’t have a problem with them selling “not as fresh” foods as Safeway and Lucky. From what I understand the food they sell is still good and as long as the majority of the customers are not getting sick, leave them alone.
They sell a lot of other stuff besides food, and some of it isn’t a bad deal.

wave January 13, 2020 at 12:17 PM

Ban them….go look at the Dollar Store on Monument & Oak Grove Rd….nothing in there…..and as noted, no fresh food.

JazzMan January 13, 2020 at 4:23 PM

Huh? No dollar store at Monument & Oak Grove. You mean Big Lots? Or Food Max on the other side (but that’s an actual grocery store). Big Lots everything else, but no fresh produce.

SmileWC January 13, 2020 at 5:40 PM

I went into that one last month. It’s definitely there.

Dawg January 13, 2020 at 10:01 PM

@JazzMan, There’s a new Dollar Tree where OSH used to be.

Winston January 13, 2020 at 12:17 PM

Banning Dollar stores is dumb government paternalism. If someone wants to buy generic pop tarts or cheap wrapping paper (or whatever) they should be able to. Why require people to shop at expensive grocery stores that overcharge on non-perishable items to make up for waste in their perishables?

Hanne Jeppesen January 14, 2020 at 1:47 AM

They actually have name brands, such as Ajax, Crest and Colgate, Secret, others as well.

Barbosa January 13, 2020 at 12:24 PM

They should also ban mattress stores too. Went to one this weekend and no fresh produce was to be found.

Dawg January 13, 2020 at 2:10 PM

Made me laugh.

Sign from Above January 13, 2020 at 3:13 PM

Nice!! I like your style! So we are now banning you!! JK

Concordejet January 13, 2020 at 12:27 PM

No way, I like it very convenience from my location.

I love both of them 99 cents and dollar tree very affordable

I do not see Concord taking down those stores at some point especially California is a Sanctuary state.

Noj January 13, 2020 at 12:28 PM

Complaints are because these types of stores open up in so-called “food deserts” aka cities where crime has driven out most other food retailers.

Concord is a long way off from being a food desert.

Pony January 13, 2020 at 12:35 PM

99 cent store on Clayton has fresh veggies and fruit. Which are about on par with Safeway on Dekinger/Treat and cheaper.

AnonZ January 13, 2020 at 2:18 PM

WORD! Both Luckys and Safeway have their own issues with “fresh” produce.

anon January 13, 2020 at 12:38 PM

I don’t think they should be banned. If customers are buying produce from them then there is a need. If they are not the stores will do away with it on their own.

BOOYAH! January 13, 2020 at 12:40 PM

Dollar Stores sell food?

Captain Bebops January 13, 2020 at 12:49 PM

Banning dollar stores would amount to discrimination against single people who don’t need the quantity of things as sold in supermarkets. It’s also not the role of dollar stores to be selling fresh produce. That is the role of supermarkets, small fresh food stands and farmer’s markets.

In retail every inch of shelf space counts and allowing dollar stores to carry the $1 items that would eat up space in a supermarket or drug store made even speculate the big chains might have even invested in the dollar stores so they could focus on more profitable items on their shelves.

The idea of banning dollar stores does though sound suspiciously like a “do gooder” law that would only make some people “feel good” while creating more economic hurt for the public. Just like raising the minimum wage was sold as giving low income people a higher wage when it turns out it was to collect more money for Social Security.

Plus banning dollar stores will wind up in the Supreme Court where it would be judged unconstitutional.

Cyn January 13, 2020 at 12:55 PM

I had no idea the dollar stores sold produce. I’ve only been in the one in the Clayton Valley Shopping Center next to Dickey’s. I only buy birthday balloons and birthday candles, as everything is made with the cheapest materials, many of which are toxic, even to the touch.

AnonZ January 13, 2020 at 2:35 PM

Well Sheesh, I hope those toxic birthday candles and balloons don’t kill the kids at your birthday party!!!

99 Cents store has a lot of the exact same brand names items that you pay more for elsewhere.

anon January 13, 2020 at 4:05 PM

That one does not sell produce but the .99 store on Clayton Road does.

Cyn January 14, 2020 at 9:19 PM

To Anon: No problem. We don’t eat balloons and candles.

Simonpure January 13, 2020 at 1:10 PM

I don’t prefer banning anything. People can make their own choices.

Ricardoh January 13, 2020 at 1:16 PM

Do you ever get tired of the politically correct? They are so boring. Nothing but a bunch of busy bodies. If I knew where there was a dollar store I would go there and buy something.

Justifiable anger January 13, 2020 at 1:28 PM

Sounds like dollar stores are cutting in to the profits of a grocery chain. These are hard times. People are cutting corners to keep up with the rising cost of living. Banning for lack of fresh food options? Sounds fishy I me.

Dana Estates January 13, 2020 at 1:38 PM

Produce at the Dollar Stores are a NECESSITY!! A 10lb bag of potatoes, milk, eggs, bell peppers, grapes, apples! I’ve bought all of the above at the Dollar Store and it was a life saver at one point in my life. The people I see buying groceries at these stores are almost always Elderly people who are probably living on a fixed income. These stores are life savers for low income folks who cannot work due to age or infirmity. It would be discriminatory to close these stores. Get off your high horse and let the community shop where it wants to, or force standardized pricing on foods that we all should be entitled to eat.

Pyrrhus January 13, 2020 at 1:39 PM

While I’m not for banning any store. There should really be some information on why cities are looking to limit the amount of dollar stores coming in.

Here’s an article:

The main reason is that allowing only dollar stores in poor communities means that grocery stores will not move in because they can’t compete with the lower prices. This means the community is getting only highly processed foods and little to no fresh produce. It is a reason why some communities are requiring dollar stores to carry fresh produce.

This is more about public health than the big bad government saying no. I’m not sure what the right answer is, but everyone should have the ability to buy healthy food regardless of income.

WC Resident January 14, 2020 at 10:33 PM

@Pyrrhus – Thank you for the link to the article. However, if I were to summarize the article it would not be the same as your version.

For example, it says the dollar stores are under 10,000 square feet. A small Safeway in this area is 25,000 square feet but most are 50,000 square feet. A Target is well over 100,000 square feet. I’m thinking this may be a key aspect on why dollar store style chains thrive in lower income areas but other retail chains don’t. is a great article. It mentions “8,000 to 10,000 square feet is profitability’s sweet spot.”

If the prices on the shelves were the only factor then a chain such as Target could easily adapt. Dollar store prices are low because the packages are smaller and/or the product is diluted and/or they are off brands. Dollar stores are a great deal for some products because the cheaper versions found in a dollar store are perfectly suitable for the average customer.

As the article notes, retail stores are very good at providing what the customer wants. If people in low income areas want healthy food then the dollar stores would carry it while also figuring out how to package the food to fit within the store’s price model.

Mark January 13, 2020 at 1:41 PM

Let the market take care of it. If people are shopping there, why take away someone’s business? If people don’t shop there they will go out of business.

Kirkwood January 13, 2020 at 2:25 PM

No, they shouldn’t be banned, I don’t know what “fresh produce” has to do with anything. I’ve walked through the local one a few times out of curiosity, bought some food storage containers (name brand), picnic supplies and paper products. Checked cleaning products and they appeared diluted.

Ilovepopcorn January 13, 2020 at 4:20 PM

Good answer!

Kirkwood January 13, 2020 at 2:46 PM

I’m old enough to remember when all produce was seasonal. During the winter there was very little available fresh produce. Frozen food was just becoming available and canned vegetables were the norm. We got along just fine. Hand me that can of spinach!
Even today, most wilted produce can be rejuvenated by cutting the stems and soaking in a bowl of water.

Hanne Jeppesen January 13, 2020 at 3:05 PM

Agree with most comment, no they should not be banned. I shop at Dollar Tree and .99 cent only. I buy candles, epsom salt to soak my feet, tissues, wrapping stuff Ajax dishwashing detergent, other stuff as well. I too have bought fresh produce at 99 cent only, although l don’t go there for that. Most fresh produce l buy at Trader Joe’s, Grocery Outlet or Farmers Market.

Sam Malone January 13, 2020 at 3:06 PM

They should not be banned. With the cost of everything else going through the roof to pay the entitlement crowd and support the Libbies in California we need these type of stores and should support them.

They serve a purpose and use your common sense when shopping there. Safeway, Lucky’s, WalMart, Raley’s, Nob Hill’s are all over priced all of the time.
We all need to watch your budgets.

Cellophane January 13, 2020 at 3:25 PM

Just more curtailing of freedoms and free trade.

Socialism 101.

I can’t help but believe that the word “freedom” will soon be defined as past tense.

GardenGazer January 13, 2020 at 9:42 PM

Socialism? I think it’s quite the opposite. Some residents of Concord have delusions of grandeur. As when we decided to not allow the horror of Walmart, presumably to keep the riffraff out. The result of that is that now ordinary people go to Martinez to shop and provide tax money to that city.

BURNBABYBURN January 14, 2020 at 4:06 AM

Capitalism would have allowed a Walmart in Concord. NIMBY is what kept Walmart out of Concord.

caskydiver January 13, 2020 at 3:46 PM

Here we go again with the “Ban” word. Just ’cause people may not like something legal is not a reason to ban it. Bans dont work….will just make it harder to get the product elsewhere. Supply and demand fixes issues of availability typically.

PO'd January 13, 2020 at 3:53 PM

I’ll make the choice of whether I shop there or anyone else. Not the Government.
I agree totally with Mark-it’s either profitable to stay open or it isn’t.Sales at the store will determine that. Nothing else.

Mimi (original) January 13, 2020 at 4:00 PM

Ban them? What the heck for? Many of them DO have fresh produce, and why would it matter anyway whether they do or don’t? They’re DOLLAR STORES for heaven’s sake and they help us make ends meet when there’s no wiggle room in the budget!!!

chuckie the troll January 13, 2020 at 4:26 PM

Dollar stores are pretty low rent in my book and I seldom go to one. For other people, they provide an opportunity to stretch the money they have to make ends meet. I can see limiting their numbers, just like restaurants, massage parlors and gas stations. But people know where to find fresh fruit, vegetables and meats/cheeses when they need them.

Just because a majority of people vote for Democrats, don’t assume that all of them are stupid.

Michael M Williams January 13, 2020 at 9:03 PM

Them democrats are more learned too!

Gittyup January 13, 2020 at 4:29 PM

The 99 cents store on Clayton Road near TJ Maxx has some of the freshest produce around, and an unusual variety you don’t see elsewhere. I make a point of stopping in there regularly for apples and a great selection of berries, all reasonably priced and the berries are always ripe and sweet. I got a couple of clamshells of Oregon blueberries (they don’t always have the Oregon ones) for 99 cents each that were phenomenal. Normally I skip berries elsewhere because they are so expensive. But, if you can get them at a reasonable price and they are fresh, why pay more. The market, in a free-market economy, should dictate this not government regulations banning a business that is successful. It might, in fact, encourage other food vendors to lower prices.

Kentucky Derby January 13, 2020 at 5:34 PM

Dollar stores do well even in neighborhoods where people aren’t stretching every dollar. The Dollar Tree in Moraga looks very busy every time I’m shopping at the Rheem shopping center. It’s the only dollar store in Lamorinda. At least they have one.

G January 13, 2020 at 6:08 PM

The dollar stores are great for so many things other than food. I go frequently, but never buy the food. I do believe they need to clean them up a bit, especially the 99 Cent store in Concord.

Dirtnap January 13, 2020 at 6:14 PM

This is just more government social engineering and market interference. Consumers should be left to make their own choices. They can decide if they want fresh produce or other food products.

Blueberry January 13, 2020 at 7:23 PM

Cancel culture solution in search of a woke problem.

Selkie January 13, 2020 at 8:06 PM

No, they do not need to be banned. I do shop there;am disabled and low income. Those stores do sell things there that are more than $1.00, if they’re worried about it they can get some better quality produce/product added to the things they sell (something cheaper than safeway but more than a dollar). Lots of people shop there, the stores are usually busy so that should say something.

WC Resident January 13, 2020 at 9:52 PM

Kirkwood wrote “Checked cleaning products and they appeared diluted.”

That reminds me … Google up Yorba Linda mansion. It was a 19,346 square foot “house” built that was a bit… over the top… The owners’ kids grew up and so they sold it for $9.8 million to downsize. The buyer is tearing the house down so that he can replace it with a 29,300-square-foot “house.” If you thought the old house was over the top then I have no idea what words you’ll need for the replacement.

Q: Who on Earth needs a 29,300-square-foot house and was willing to buy a fairly new $9.8 million house as a tear-down project?

A: It’s Loksarang Hardas, the guy behind the “Awesome” brand cleaning products that you see in dollar stores.

People who shop at dollar stores are getting ripped off so that people like Loksarang Hardas can build huge houses. Many of the products are worth ten cents or less and are sold for a dollar. Unfortunately, traditional stores generally refuse to have their outlets in poverty stricken areas. The dollar stores are willing because their profit margins are so high.

Hanne Jeppesen January 14, 2020 at 1:41 AM

Please give us shopper some credits. I have been watching prizes and comparison shopping ever since I got married in 1974. I work retail, I’m not that easy to fool. So you are telling me a Ajax dishwashing detergent that I can buy for $1.00 at Dollar Tree, but would pay between $2,00 to 3.00 anywhere is a rip-off, they sell Crest and Colgate toothpaste, the Epsom bath salt is $3.00 at CVS same brand, besides Epsom salt is Epsom salt, candles are candles, I light 2-3 tea light candles every night during the winter, the dollar store saves me plenty of money. You don’t have to go there, but to tell us we are getting ripped off is an insult.

Hanne Jeppesen January 13, 2020 at 10:51 PM

Liberal conservative, doesn’t matter this is a stupid idea devoid of common sense. Most people these days rely on a few stores to cover their shopping needs. CVS does not have produce, but they sell wine, milk, cheese, canned goods. Dollar Tree and 99Cents stores sell toothpaste, soap, ibuprofen, vitamins etc. does that mean CVS should be selling produce. I love the dollars stores, it saves me a lot of money on many items, and there are items I hate to pay full price for, one is gift bags, and gift wrapping material, at CVS, Target, Cost Plus these items run at least $3.00 and up, and usually it gets thrown out as soon as someone gets it. I too have had good luck with produce at 99Cent only store, especially raspberries in the summer, couldn’t taste the difference between those and Farmer Market’s raspberries, although certainly Farmer’s Market is superior for fresh fruits and veggies. I grew up in the country and my Dad was a Gardner, until I was 14-15 I never had a frozen vegetable or fruit, canned perhaps, but not frozen, so I’m very particular about my produce and usually only buy what is in season, because it will taste better and be at a better price. Certain fruits like strawberries start to loose their flavor as soon as they are picked, so buying expensive strawberries from Mexico is not a good idea. Another tip always choose the medium size, the larger ones (especially items that contain a lot of water like strawberries and tomatoes) are overgrown and thus have lost some of their taste, the smaller ones underdeveloped. This is probably more about produce than anyone care to know.

Led January 13, 2020 at 11:39 PM

A perfect example of how a few factors and delusions come together to make people’s lives worse:

1. Self-styled progressives of a certain type see some aspect of the lives of poorer people and it grosses them out. “Look at these people who are eating dollar store food! That’s awful! So unhealthy – it’s mostly candy and cheap carbs! Let’s ban those stores and make sure only stores that sell fresh food can operate!”

2. Grocery stores say, “We agree, for purely high-minded reasons, of course!”

3. It turns out there was a reason why there are dollar stores rather than something else in some places. And banning them just takes away the stores that were serving actual people and delivering some value to them. Much to the surprise of the people in step (1), and not at all to the surprise of those in step (2), there is no beautiful organic fresh food co-op that springs up in place of the dollar store.

4. In sum, the politics of revulsion (“Ew, poor people, that’s gross! Let’s ban that gross part right there!”) makes people’s lives worse rather than better.

jjshawk January 13, 2020 at 11:51 PM

Enough with the banning of this or that! Between Trader Joe’s, Grocery Outlet, and the Dollar Stores, my needs are met. I can afford to shop where I want, but why should I spend more than necessary? If I can get what I need for a dollar, then a dollar is what I shall spend. Stop screwing with my pocket-book! Besides, the money saved can go towards more toys and more fun.

Local Lady January 14, 2020 at 10:30 AM

Not everything at these dollar stores is a great bargain. A lot of times I can do better elsewhere if I don’t mind driving a little extra, but not always. Of course, not everyone has a car or money for gas to drive willy nilly all over the place to save 12 cents on a bottle of shampoo.

Captain Bebops January 14, 2020 at 11:48 AM

The PSAs about “food deserts” have been about convenience stores not dollar stores. Some items have disappeared from Dollar Tree because the vendors didn’t want to make an even smaller package and Dollar Tree was going to raise the price ($1.25 Tree?) But apparently the latter idea didn’t float.

I’ve been noticing that the price of toilet paper just went through the roof at the supermarkets. Pretty soon you won’t be able to afford to….

The Martinez Dollar Tree when it opened had everything that was on the Dollar Tree site. Now it doesn’t and there are some things I would need to go the Concord store (which is twice as large) to get some things. I often did when I shopped at Fry’s.

The Mamba January 14, 2020 at 11:49 AM

Safeway produce has gotten too expensive, please ban them!

Bobohead January 14, 2020 at 12:46 PM

What’s a dollar???? All I have is Benjamin’s….

J January 14, 2020 at 6:22 PM

At Safeway sometimes one artichoke costs $2.50. One Avocado costs $2.00. 8 ounces of berries cost $4.00. One onion costs a dollar. I support any store that sells low priced food, whether canned, jarred, frozen, bagged or boxed. I’ve seen some obviously low income people shopping for food at Dollar Stores. I get the feeling that they might not eat at all if the Dollar Store wasn’t there.

JD January 15, 2020 at 9:49 AM

We need to ban Safeway and Luckys as Whole Foods fresher and environmentally better ! What a waste time.

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