A novel idea in 1955 transformed a local enterprise into an industry leading discount retailer.
When the first Dollar General store opened in Springfield, Ky., on June 1, 1955, the concept was simple – no item in the store would cost more than one dollar. The idea became a huge success and other stores owned by J.L. Turner and his son Cal Turner Sr. were quickly converted. By 1957, annual sales of Dollar General's 29 stores were $5 million.
The Turners did not reach this level of success without obstacles. James Luther (J.L.) Turner's father died in an accident in 1902 when J.L. was only 11. J.L. quit school so he could work on the family farm and help provide for his mother and siblings. He never completed his education. J.L. knew his limited education demanded that he become a quick study of the world around him.
After two unsuccessful attempts at retailing, J.L. became a traveling dry goods salesman for a Nashville wholesale grocer. J.L. left the sales job after 10 years and settled his family in Scottsville, Ky. During the Depression, he began buying and liquidating bankrupt general stores. J.L.'s only child, Cal Turner Sr., accompanied his father to these closeouts at a young age, gaining valuable business knowledge and skills.
In October 1939, J.L. and Cal opened J.L. Turner and Son Wholesale with an initial investment of $5,000 each. Wholesaling quickly gave way to retailing – J.L.'s third and final attempt at retailing. The switch to retailing resulted in annual sales above $2 million by the early 1950s, and the rest is history.
J.L. passed away in 1964. Four years later, the company he co-founded went public as Dollar General Corporation, posting annual sales of more than $40 million and net income in excess of $1.5 million. In 1977, Cal Turner Jr., who joined the company in 1965 as the third generation Turner, succeeded his father as president of Dollar General. Cal Turner Jr. led the company until his retirement in 2002. Under his leadership, the company grew to more than 6,000 stores and $6 billion in sales.
The yellow Dollar General store sign is a popular symbol of value. Our convenient, everyday low prices model has survived and thrived through the decades. The company remains true to the humble ethic of hard work and friendly customer service embodied by the founding family. About a third of Dollar General's merchandise still sells for a dollar or less. The simplicity that defined our past is the engine that drives our success today.