Back to all articles

The History of Dollar General

A former farmer and traveling dry goods salesman who had to drop out of school when his father died, James Luther “J.L.” Turner began buying and liquidating bankrupt general stores during the Great Depression. His son, Cal Turner Sr., regularly went to these closeouts with his father. In October 1939, J.L. and Cal opened J.L. Turner and Son Wholesale with an initial investment of $5,000 each. Despite J.L. having two failed retail businesses in his past, the endeavor soon shifted from wholesale to retail, and the father and son duo opened the first Dollar General store in Springfield, Kentucky on June 1, 1955. The concept for the store was simple and appealing for consumers — no item in the store would cost more than $1.00. The flagship store was such a massive success that J.L. and his son soon turned the other stores they owned into Dollar Generals, too. By 1957, Dollar General’s 29 stores had achieved annual sales of $5 million. J.L. passed away in 1964 and in 1968, the company he built with his son went public as Dollar General Corporation. In 1977, Cal’s son, Cal Turner Jr., took over the operation of the company from his father and led it until his retirement in 2002. Under Cal Jr.’s leadership, Dollar General expanded even further, boasting 6,000 stores and $6 billion in sales. Today, the company has grown even more with over 19,000 stores across 47 states. Dollar General is considered the largest small-box retailer in the United States and as a leading discount retailer, roughly 25% of its merchandise still sells for $1.00 or less.

Share this article

card showing the history of rocking chairs

Your go-to guide for weird history facts

Subscribe to the FREE daily email that makes learning about history fun.