PERSPECTIVE: 9 Things to Know About the Dollar General Proposal in Egg Harbor and More to Know this Week

In this week’s weekly rundown I’m turning the focus toward tonight’s Egg Harbor Town Board meeting, where supervisors will consider a proposal for a Dollar General retail store. Full disclosure – my father, Myles Dannhausen Sr., is a member of the Egg Harbor Town Board, which is why I don’t cover that community for the Pulse. I have covered Dollar General extensively in the past when they proposed a location in Sister Bay, and this week I thought it would be helpful to residents to get more context on the history of Dollar General’s efforts to locate in the county, why it’s such a hot topic, and some of the confusion regarding the powers of the village vs. the town of Egg Harbor.

The Town of Egg Harbor Board of Supervisors will take up the Dollar General proposal this evening at its regular monthly board meeting. A contractor that builds new locations for the massive retailer is seeking approval for a 9,100 square-foot store at the corner of Highway 42 and Hillside Road, about one mile south of the village limits.

There is a public comment session at the beginning of the meeting. To attend or make comment see instructions on the agenda here>>

Here are 9 things to know about the proposal and Dollar General before the meeting:

  1. The Town of Egg Harbor is governed differently from the Village of Egg Harbor. The two communities split back in the 1960s for reasons similar to the controversy over special assessments in Fish Creek. The Village has zoning, while the town does not. Its ordinances pertaining to the development are those governing building permits and architectural controls that address items such as minimum lot sizes, height, setbacks and impervious surface ratios. In 2016 that left the town with little to say about Door Artisan Cheese, an even larger retail, production center, and restaurant on the north end of the town.
  2. The store would be one of the largest retail locations north of Sturgeon Bay. For context, the Piggly Wiggly grocery store was 13,072 square-feet before it expanded in 2019.
  3. Dollar General is as much a grocery store as a retailer. The company’s aggressive expansion into small towns has been blamed for putting many local grocers on the brink or into closure. The retailer now has 17,000 stores.
  4. Opponents have have requested that Dollar General be required to perform a traffic study at the rural intersection where the store will be located.
  5. The proposal is a test for northern Door County, which for years has been successful in keeping most formula businesses, or chains, out of the area. While some brand names adorn local businesses, such as at gas stations and hardware stores, the businesses are owned locally. The Piggly Wiggly might be the best example of a chain in the area, but the Nesbitt family, which owns the business, are frequent visitors who speak for the company and contribute to local charities. At a meeting for a similar proposal in Sister Bay, developer Peter Oleszczuk said that a representative from Dollar General would never be coming to Door County.
  6. It’s the contractor’s second attempt to build in northern Door County. An attempt to construct a smaller store in Sister Bay fell flat when Plan Commission chair found large errors in the green space calculations used for the proposal.
  7. Many opponents fear the big box retailer will be just the latest in a long line of similar businesses to jump into the Door County market to much fanfare, only to lurk out a few years later, leaving the empty shell of their store behind to blight the roadside. That long list includes K-Mart, Pamida (twice), Shopko, Spurgeons, Younkers, Sav-a-Buck, and Maurices (twice).
  8. Numerous studies have shown that dollars spent at local stores return much more money back to the local community per dollar spent than those spent at chain stores. That’s in large part because profits from chain establishments go to executives and shareholders far from the store location. Dollar General is based in Tennessee.
  9. Once built, it may just be the start. On a weekend drive to Upper Michigan, through the many small towns on the west side of Green Bay, there was a Dollar General at the entrance to nearly every small town and city. What was located a stone’s throw from many of them? A Family Dollar.

In Other News This Week

Sturgeon Bay’s Common Council meets Tuesday night. On the agenda is an update to its short-term-rental ordinance. See the agenda packet here>>

Wednesday is St. Patrick’s Day. It will be the second year of subdued celebrations for most of us, but the news on vaccines is getting better each day, with almost 3 million shots being administered each day. When the pandemic began, many in rural areas like our own considered it a big-city problem, or a coastal problem. One year ago today David Eliot and I feared our county was being a little too complacent in its approach to the virus, spurring us to write this editorial.

We’ve learned a lot about ourselves in the year since – some bad, but far more good (I know, it doesn’t seem that way all the time, but it’s true). We’ve also learned a lot about the virus. We don’t need to wash groceries, or leave packages to rest in the garage, or be scared to grab a door knob. Going to the beach, the playground, or eating on a patio is not a mortal sin, and most outdoor gatherings with spacing are very safe, especially with masks.

And we learned that people are bound and determined to come to Door County, pandemic be damned. Despite the spring shutdown, room tax returns were down just under 8 percent for the year, and the business owners we’ve spoken to expect this summer to be busier than ever. Last week I talked to Jon Jarosh from Destination Door County about the outlook for the summer for visitors and business owners.

Door County Pulse Podcasts · The Summer Ahead with Jon Jarosh and Myles Dannhausen Jr.

On the Podcast

I was still in high school when he wrote his first (bad) contributions for the Peninsula Pulse. Fortunately those were pre-website days for the Pulse, and you need access to our archives to find them.

On this week’s podcast, Pulse co-founder David Eliot and I talk to Andrew Kleidon about the early days of the paper, trading pizza for advertising, and how an entertainment weekly became a newspaper.

Door County Pulse Podcasts · The Story of the Pulse Part IV: Pizza for Press with Myles Dannhausen Jr. and David Eliot

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