By Kim S. Nash  |  Posted 2004-07-01 Print this article Print

Dollar General opens two new stores every day. The secret isn't Miracle-Gro. Instead, there's a well-honed choreography of human muscle and precision logistics that sets up each new outlet in little more than a week. We take you inside what Dollar General

Day 8 - Mop and Go

  • Paper checklists

  • Last satellite tests

  • Sweets for the sweats

    Crews rush to fill the last shelves, racks, pegs and strings. Koehn and Rambus carry around batches of paper—building permits, store maps, planograms—and, with paper and pen, check off jobs completed. Dollar General won't spring for personal digital assistants. But Rambus says he doesn't want one anyway. "I like a Day Planner to record it all," he says.

    As district manager, Anzor fetches money from a local bank to fill Jersey Shore's two registers for making change on opening day. Dollar General headquarters wires funds a day or two before opening.

    The satellite network gets a last test run.

    If setup ends on a Friday, the store manager may elect to buy a box of celebratory doughnuts for the crew in keeping with Dollar General's "Donut Friday" reward program. For all their sweat, they get a single doughnut each.

    "Recovery" is the last step, which means picking up garbage from aisles, mopping floors and polishing counters. "They stress a lot of lighting and to keep it clean," Longway says. "Customers don't want to walk into a dark store and trip on dirt."

    Hallstrom is a stickler for bringing all items to the edge of the shelves. "I tell the clerks when I hire them, 'You're not going to hang out in the front of the store on register all the time.' We need to be 100% recovered."

    Those who aren't staying on as permanent cashiers and clerks take their last paycheck. The full-timers go home to rest for the next day's "soft opening," where the store unlocks its doors to what is often a waiting public. That's ahead of an official grand opening slated for a week or so later.

    Opening Up, Moving On

    Longway gets a mix of browsers and buyers her first day in business. Sales are "pretty good" in Whitesboro, she says, but declines to cite a figure. She's got a Family Dollar store two miles away to compete with.

    Jersey Shore takes in more than $4,300 its first day. Dollar General is the only chain store in this town of 4,482, save for a newly opened Curves exercise club franchise. The new Dollar General, says one elderly woman with crackers and paper towels in her cart, "is the best thing to happen to this town in a long time."

    Grand opening is an event. Special signs and plastic banners are hung, and mayors and fire chiefs have been known to attend. But by then, openers like Rambus and Koehn are gone to the next site. Koehn travels 22 days per month. "If I didn't have my dog to come home to, I'd sell the house and live out of a suitcase," he says.

    After finishing Whitesboro in April, Rambus opened Linesville, Pa., in early May. He was due to close down Dollar General's poor-performing store in Enola, Pa., at the end of May, and knew he would be opening a store in Mayville, N.Y., at the end of June.

    "I'll be at places in between, I'm sure," Rambus says.

    They won't let him rest for long.

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    Senior Writer
    Kim has covered the business of technology for 14 years, doing investigative work and writing about legal issues in the industry, including Microsoft Corp.'s antitrust trial. She has won numerous awards and has a B.S. degree in journalism from Boston University.

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