Last week’s closure of downtown convenience store Brothers’ Little Mart combined with the shuttering of Pic-Pac earlier this year has helped make portions of Frankfort a food desert, which is defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a neighborhood that “lacks healthy food sources.”
The closings are especially difficult for lower-income residents without transportation, who relied on the stores for everyday staples. With the exception of the Franklin County Farmers Market, which doesn’t operate year-round, the closest grocery offering fresh produce is Save A Lot on Louisville Road — not exactly walking distance for those who reside in South Frankfort and downtown.
On paper, Frankfort’s demographics — 27,000 residents with a median income of $45,000 — aren’t exactly a draw for potential grocers, according to Kentucky Capital Development Corp. President Terri Bradshaw. However, one statistic the numbers fail to represent is the thousands of commuters who work in and spend money downtown during the work week.
Bradshaw reached out to more than a dozen businesses, including Trader Joe’s, about locating in Frankfort, but the area demographics didn’t meet the company’s criteria, she said.
However, one viable option — should the company begin offering fresh food locally as it has in 650 of its more than 16,000 locations — is for Dollar General, which already has three Frankfort stores, to move in.
While some may discount the idea, data shows that as income disparities widen, more U.S. residents are choosing dollar stores over competitors such as Whole Foods. In fact, grocery sales at Dollar General and Dollar Tree were close to $24 billion in 2018, compared to Whole Foods’ $15 billion.
Also, Frankfort’s demographics align more with Dollar General’s core customer, who tends to live in towns with around 20,000 residents and have a household income of less than $40,000 per year — compared to the average Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods customer, who earns more than $125,000 a year.
While we would prefer a local mom-and-pop grocer to replace Pic-Pac, we should also keep our options open for any retailer that will shelve fresh produce.