Where Did Dollar General Start?

“Where did Dollar General start?” is a question that unveils a compelling journey of resilience, innovation, and community impact. From its modest beginnings in rural America to its emergence as a retail powerhouse, Dollar General’s story is one of perseverance and ingenuity. In this blog, we are going to discuss about the origins of J.L. Turner and Son. After that, we will discuss the roots of Dollar General, tracing its evolution from a small family-owned business to a Fortune 500 giant. Lastly, we will discuss about the profitability of Dollar General and its impact on Rural America.

The Origins of J.L. Turner and Son

James Luther “J.L.” Turner, born on February 28, 1891, was the founder of J.L. Turner and Son, which eventually became the Dollar General Corporation. Despite starting with very little and not having much formal education, Turner’s determination and business skills influenced the company’s direction.

The Great Depression and the Turners’ Resilience

During the Great Depression, Turner faced tough economic times firsthand. He worked as a traveling salesman and saw many general stores go bankrupt. Instead of giving up, Turner saw an opportunity in the situation. He started selling off merchandise from these struggling stores. This experience paved the way for his entrepreneurial journey.

In 1939, Turner and his son, Cal Turner, took a bold step by founding J.L. Turner and Son. They invested $5,000 each to start their own general store. Despite the difficult economic conditions, they persisted and used the liquidated goods to stock their shelves.

Purchase and Liquidation of Bankrupt General Stores

Turner’s ability to identify value in distressed assets paved the way for acquiring merchandise from struggling businesses, laying the foundation for their store. Committed to offering quality and affordability, the Turners connected with customers, even during challenging times.

After World War II, Turner shifted focus from dry goods wholesaling to retail, a move that proved successful. By the 1950s, annual sales surpassed $2 million, with 35 department stores operating across Kentucky and Tennessee. Notably, the first Dollar General store opened on June 1, 1955, in Scottsville, Kentucky. This marked the beginning of a thriving retail empire, led by Cal Turner Sr. after James died in 1964.

In tribute to J.L. Turner’s legacy, his grandson Cal Turner Jr. established the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, underscoring the significance of education and literacy.

The Birth of Dollar General

Dollar General, a retail behemoth renowned for its affordability and convenience, has humble roots that date back to its inception. Let’s embark on an exploration of the captivating journey of this retail giant, delving into its evolution, influence, and significant milestones.

Dollar General’s Journey: From Going Public to Fortune 500 Recognition

Tracing its early roots back to Scottsville, Kentucky in 1939, J.L. Turner and Son began as a modest family-owned business under the helm of James Luther “J.L.” Turner and his son, Cal Turner. Originally operating as a general store, the company underwent a transformative moment in 1955 when it adopted the name Dollar General Corporation. In 1968, Dollar General made its debut on the New York Stock Exchange, signaling a significant milestone in its journey towards becoming a dominant force in the retail sector.

Expansive Growth and Fortune 500 Acknowledgment:

Dollar General’s growth trajectory has been nothing short of extraordinary. With a sprawling network of over 14,000 stores nationwide, it surpasses the number of McDonald’s outlets across the entire United States. Recognizable by its bright yellow and black signage, Dollar General stores are ubiquitous, reaching even the most remote corners of rural America. Distinguished from other dollar store chains by its diverse product offerings, Dollar General caters to budget-conscious consumers by providing everyday essentials at competitive prices.

In 2023, Dollar General celebrated several notable achievements:

  • Attaining the esteemed #108 position on the Fortune 500 List underscores its remarkable growth and $37.8 billion in revenues.
  • Inclusion in Fortune Magazine’s esteemed World’s Most Admired Companies List, lauded for its customer-centric ethos and affordability.
  • Holding the #17 position on the National Retail Federation’s esteemed Top 100 Retailers List, highlighting its profound impact on the retail landscape.
  • Recognition as one of the Top 50 Fastest-Growing Retailers by Total Retail, showcasing its prowess in driving innovation and expansion within the industry.

Dollar General’s Profitability and Impact on Rural America

Dollar General’s presence in rural America goes beyond mere commerce; it represents a vital economic and social force. Let’s explore how Dollar General’s profitability intertwines with its profound impact on rural communities, fostering economic empowerment and serving as social hubs.

Thriving in Rural Communities:

Dollar General strategically positions its stores in rural areas, catering to frugal shoppers who often lack access to larger retail chains. Despite not offering big-ticket items, its convenient locations make it an essential stop for everyday needs like groceries and household essentials.

Economic Empowerment and Social Hubs:

In many small towns, Dollar General’s arrival signifies the first new commercial investment in years, revitalizing communities and offering a lifeline to residents. In places like Cawker City, Kansas, where grocery stores are scarce, Dollar General serves as more than just a retailer—it becomes a social gathering place and a vital resource for essential goods, especially for the elderly population.

A Retail Giant with Rural Roots:

Dollar General’s success story mirrors the resilience and practicality of rural America. With its commitment to affordability and convenience, it continues to bridge gaps in underserved communities while transforming the retail landscape, symbolizing progress and community vitality.


Where did Dollar General start?

Dollar General began its journey in Scottsville, Kentucky in 1939 when J.L. Turner and his son, Cal Turner, founded J.L. Turner and Son, which later became Dollar General Corporation.

What motivated J.L. Turner to start Dollar General?

During the Great Depression, J.L. Turner saw an opportunity in distressed assets from failing businesses. He began selling off merchandise from struggling stores, which laid the foundation for Dollar General.

How did Dollar General evolve over the years?

Dollar General transitioned from dry goods wholesaling to retail after World War II. By the 1950s, it had annual sales surpassing $2 million and operated 35 department stores across Kentucky and Tennessee.

When did Dollar General open its first store?

The first Dollar General store opened on June 1, 1955, in Scottsville, Kentucky, marking the beginning of its retail empire.

What is the Dollar General Literacy Foundation?

The Dollar General Literacy Foundation was established by Cal Turner Jr., the grandson of J.L. Turner, to emphasize the importance of education and literacy, honoring J.L. Turner’s legacy.


In conclusion, the journey of Dollar General from its humble beginnings to becoming a retail giant is a testament to resilience, innovation, and community impact. “Where did Dollar General start?” traces back to the determined efforts of James Luther “J.L.” Turner and his son, Cal Turner, who laid the foundation of a company that would shape the retail landscape of rural America. Dollar General’s commitment to affordability, convenience, and community engagement has made it more than just a retail chain—it’s a lifeline for many small towns, a beacon of progress, and a symbol of rural resilience. As Dollar General continues to grow and evolve, its roots remain firmly planted in the values of its founders, driving economic empowerment and social cohesion in communities across the nation.