Lah and DG

Property owners Bill and Peggy Lah close deal with Dollar General on future site of new store in Goodland. Bill and Peggy are shown with Newton County Economic Development Director Tim Myers.

Q: So tell us how this all got started.

Lah: It began around 4 years ago when we decided to do something that would be a breakthrough for Goodland. The family and I were talking either a B&B or a possible retail outlet. We settled on this property at the corner of Iroquois and US 24 with the highest traffic density in town, as it provided the most flexibility for end use.

Unfortunately, any chance to salvage the existing home was quickly ruled out. We had serious structural issues due to prior roof leaks.

The capital cost to renovate was prohibitive given the ceiling of reasonable rents in Goodland. We couldn’t generate enough recurring income back from a fully renovated property to justify the capital cost.

Q: What options did that leave you with?

Lah: We wanted to find a solution that helped address local property values and quickly shifted to a strategy that would make Goodland a more desirable place to live. We need more than just social events to make this an attractive place for families to live once again. It didn’t take us long for us to figure out, that if we could do only one thing to change the game here, we had to attract a retail location that plays in communities of this size.

Q: Why Dollar General?

Lah: Good question. First, don’t judge Dollar General by stores that went in 10 or even 5 years ago. What attracted us to Dollar General was their commitment to enhancing their distribution of cold chain groceries. When you look at their new “DG Fresh” program, bringing fresh fruits and vegetables into their stores, and their aggressive expansion of cold doors, it becomes an exciting proposition. Dollar General’s scale gives them the purchasing power that gives customers in small communities like ours, often for the first time ever, to buy locally without the tradeoff of paying much higher prices. Go look at the new store in Boswell and you will see what I mean.

Q: So how do you convince a $25 billion company to invest in Goodland?

Lah: It wasn’t easy. Let’s just say this was a multi-year effort that included Peggy and I on the doorsteps of their headquarters in 2018 offering to build the site to suit.

We also partnered with Tim Myers the Director of Newton County Economic Development and he really helped to sell the community and area to Dollar General. Tim has been a tremendous supporter in this effort to close the deal.

Early in 2019 they seemed to recognize Goodland as a strategic opportunity, and we were given the indication that 2020 could be the year. Though that seemed far off at the time, we were in the game for the long haul and were prepared to do whatever was necessary, so we are glad that this is finally becoming a reality.

We tried to remove every barrier to entry for them, and I think our persistence finally got Goodland on their map.

Q: What kind of impact do you see this having on the community?

Lah: I would start by saying that I believe all of us in Goodland became used to not having our own grocery store. When we need something, we are miles away from access to basic groceries, household, and general health items. If you look at the USDAs definition of a “food desert”, that is us. We have been living in that world for too long and it ultimately has impacted our attractiveness as a place of choice for people to live.

My goal is, that when we enter the new year of 2021, that families will be able to do the bulk of their basic grocery shopping right here in Goodland. That’s hard to imagine for us all right now, but that would be a breakthrough. I believe that having our own Dollar General will help improve the property value of every resident of Goodland. Think about the time we spend, the gas we waste, and the miles we put on our vehicles every week just to stock the shelves at home. What about when you need something quick to fix a meal? The game is changing in Goodland real soon. Let’s not forget the new jobs to run the store as well.

Also, for the employers in the community, worker retention is always a challenge for those who commute into Goodland for work. We hope that access to basic amenities is a key element to help entice those employees to start viewing Goodland as a more desirable place to be.

In the end, we believe this could be a turning point in terms of Goodland’s economic momentum. Success breeds success and we hope this is the start of a more positive run for the community.

Q: Any closing thoughts?

Lah: We really want to thank Dollar General for investing in our community, and especially for carrying forward without hesitation during the pandemic. In terms of the new world we live in now, I am personally looking forward to being able to stay close to home when shopping in a smaller and less crowded store in the not so distant future.

We appreciate Dollar General’s partnership in this endeavor, they are truly a professional organization and are making big impacts to the quality of life in the communities they invest in.

A big thanks to Tim Myers from Newton County Economic development for helping to attract them. Marci Burton from Burton Farm & Home Realty was the transaction broker for the buyer and she played a big role in making this happen as well.