Planetizen - Urban Planning News, Jobs, and Education

In Tulsa, Pushing Back on the Dollar Store Incursion

Restrictions in North Tulsa are part of a backlash against the dollar stores flooding communities that are food deserts in need of real grocery stores.
November 23, 2019, 11am PST | Camille Fink
Share Tweet LinkedIn Email Comments
Dollar Store
Jonathan Weiss

Victor Luckerson writes about a law in Tulsa, Oklahoma that would curb the spread of dollar stores. The problem is especially acute in North Tulsa, which has nine dollar stores but not a single grocery store. The landscape has changed dramatically for an area once home to a thriving African American neighborhood filled with small businesses, known as Black Wall Street.

Starting in the late 1960s, Walmart lead to the demise of these businesses, along with the grocery stores that came later. Dollar stores came to North Tulsa to fill the void, as they have in communities across the country. And while these stores offer cheap products, they are not providing access to the healthy, fresh foods that residents need.

"The chains draw an ever-growing percentage of their sales from food, much of it high in calories and low in nutrients, like the Doritos in the central aisle at the store on Pine Street [in North Tulsa]. Stores that were once conveniences are now the only places to buy food in some communities," says Luckerson.

The efforts of a city councilperson representing North Tulsa resulted in a six-month moratorium on the construction of dollar stores in 2017. "In April 2018, the Council went further, requiring 'small-box' discount retailers in most of Ms. [Vanessa] Hall-Harper’s district to be built at least a mile apart, unless they carry at least 500 square feet of fresh fruits, vegetables and meats," writes Luckerson.

Other cities are looking to the Tulsa law as a model for taking back control of their economic development futures. And Luckerson says what is happening around dollar stores is part of a larger phenomenon of city leaders "pushing back against America’s winner-take-all economy — from New York City’s protests against Amazon to new laws in California and Boston limiting the expansion of app-based services like Uber and Airbnb."

Full Story:
Published on Friday, November 15, 2019 in The New York Times
Share Tweet LinkedIn Email