Ohatchee residents impatient for return of dollar store

Rachael Scarborough King
Star Staff Writer
Published: July 14, 2006

OHATCHEE – For the women gathered at the Ohatchee Senior Center on Wednesday, the future of the local dollar store was a hot-button issue.

“Please, please, please,” several said almost in unison. “We want it back.”

Since the Dollar General in Ohatchee was destroyed in a tornado in April, local residents have been without a source for many daily necessities such as detergent, pet food and dish soap.

“We have to drive all the way out to Alexandria or to Rainbow City,” Cathy Goff said. “I miss it, I think everybody does.”

While Mayor Joseph Roberson says Ohatchee is growing and is poised for more development, in the last two years the town has lost both its dollar store and bank center. Colonial Bank closed its Ohatchee location in 2004.

The city has persuaded Fort McClellan Credit Union to open a branch on Alabama 77. But Roberson said he has not had a definite answer from Dollar General on whether it plans to rebuild.

“I’m actually talking to the developer and … he tells me he should have a decision from Dollar General or Family Dollar by the end of this week,” Roberson said. “He’s expecting one of them to give him a green light to go ahead and build the store.”

A spokeswoman at Dollar General’s corporate headquarters said a lease has not been signed, but that the company intends to return to Ohatchee. A Family Dollar spokeswoman said she could not confirm plans for a store because there has been no lease signed or opening date determined.

Roberson said the lack of the Dollar General and bank is a big issue for local residents.

“Because of the type of goods that they carried, it’s something that almost every household uses all the time,” Roberson said. “People are always coming by to say when are we going to get our store back … and they tell me how much they miss having that store in Ohatchee.”

Many of those gathered at the Senior Center agreed, saying they found it strange that the Dollar General, which usually was crowded with customers, would not reopen quickly.

“That was a lifesaver for me, for everybody around here; it’s really been a lifesaver, as high as (the price of) gas is,” Willine Adamson said.

Several said they had heard various reports about the future of the store: that the insurance had gotten too high for Dollar General to afford, or that Family Dollar wanted to open there instead.

“You hear all kinds of rumors so you don’t know what to believe,” Goff said.

“I’m beginning to wonder whether they are (going to reopen) or not,” said Curt Dover.

The new Fort McClellan Credit Union Branch, on the other hand, will be a boon for the community, said Roberson and Town Councilwoman Celesia Kilgore.

Curt Sasser, president and CEO of Fort McClellan Credit Union, said the company had signed a lease with the town of Ohatchee but the branch does not have a projected opening date because of renovations needed in the building.

“With the growth and expansion of residential development and other commercial development that’s within a 10- to 15-mile area of the town of Ohatchee, it just seems to me to be the next place to expand,” Sasser said. “There’s not another financial-service facility to provide the service for residents of the Ohatchee community.”

The credit union branch will provide all of the services of a traditional bank except safe-deposit boxes.

“I just think it’s wonderful news (that the bank is opening) and if we could push for a grocery store, that would be great,” Councilwoman Kilgore said.

There is a grocery store in the shopping center at the corner of Alabama 77 and Alabama 144, but the mayor and other residents said it doesn’t meet their needs. Roberson said he has spoken recently with Food Outlet about opening a store in Ohatchee and that they are scouting locations.

“We need a grocery store bad,” Kilgore said. “People ask me every day, ‘When is the (dollar) store going to come back?'”

Despite the inconvenience of being without a bank and store, Adamson, one of the local residents at the Senior Center Wednesday, said she wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

“Ohatchee’s the best place in the world to live,” she said. “We’ve got the greatest little town.”

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