Business owners gear up for fight

Lisa Salazar, owner of Henry's Grocery, stands inside her business on Strasburg Road. Salazar has sought signatures inside her store against Dollar General's rezoning effort on property for a store along Strasburg Road near Homestead Drive. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL — With the Warren County Planning Commission voting 5-0 Wednesday to recommend the Board of Supervisors reject a request to rezone land for a future Dollar General site as commercial property, business owners along Strasburg Road are gearing up for fight in January.

Lisa Salazar, owner of Henry’s Grocery, 1181 Strasburg Road, said she has spearheaded efforts to prevent Dollar General from developing a 9,100-square-foot store at 1453 Strasburg Road. Salazar said she has put a petition in her store and at 7 Xpress at 1964 Strasburg Road. So far she has 570 signatures against the proposal.

“Who wants to live next door to a Dollar General?” Salazar said. “If you move out into the country, that was your intent, to get away from the hustle bustle.”

Henry’s Grocery Store employs about eight people and mostly serves locals along Strasburg Road. Salazar said her family has owned the business for more than 30 years and she does not oppose business development in other parts of the county.

Vicki Jimenez, owner of the property in question, said she believes Salazar generated the opposition against the Dollar General so that she could maintain her business along Strasburg Road.

“Between the Facebook postings, petitions and voiced opinions to customers and county employees, one can only feel like Lisa is sabotaging me from selling my property and allowing another store to open in the area,” Jimenez said.

Salazar said she was happy with the Planning Commission’s decision to vote against recommending the Board of Supervisors honor the rezoning request.

“I think when you look at what Dollar General wants to do here, it pretty much amounts to spot zoning,” Salazar said. “This is a residential and agriculture area and a Dollar General has no place here. The Planning Commission agreed with us.”

Jimenez said she was not happy with the Planning Commission’s actions.

“I was not able to attend that meeting, but I do not agree with the Planning Commission’s decision at all,” Jimenez said. “There’s a storage facility, two stores and a church along that road. It isn’t all residential and agricultural. How did they get there?”

Salazar’s store, while a commercial property, was grandfathered when the zoning laws were established in Warren County.

Salazar said she is against the project for three main reasons: an increase in traffic if the store is established, the threat the store poses to her business and the store’s location.

“I’ve done a lot of research on Dollar General, so I know they are a multi-billion dollar company who can buy their products cheaper than I can get mine,” Salazar said. “I can’t keep up with that kind of competition.”

Salazar continued, “The store will also have trucks come up and down the road and the road is too narrow and can’t handle it. Also, Strasburg Road just isn’t the location for them. There are plenty of spots along 522 they can go.”

Jimenez said store or no store, there already is a lot of traffic along Strasburg Road.

“I don’t think there would be much difference or [be] any less safe in entering a local Dollar store then it would be to enter any of the other stores, businesses, churches and restaurants in the area,” Jimenez said.

Jimenez continued, “Dollar General would comply with all VDOT requirements and safety regulations, so why continue to strongly oppose the store? There would be road improvements with the store, making the area safer.”

During the Planning Commission meeting, 13 people came to speak against the store. Salazar said residents are concerned about supporting local small businesses.

“How many mom and pop shops have gone under in this county?” Salazar asked. “I’ve been around small convenience stores my whole life and have owned this store for the past 16 years. It’s hard to make it as a small business.”

Salazar said she expects to lose business if the store opens, mainly due to lower prices and more variety.

“I’ve got about 3,000 items inventoried at this store and a store of that size will have about 15,000 items,” Salazar said. “How can I expect a customer to keep coming here when they can get it cheaper down the road and find more brands?”

Jimenez said she believes residents along Strasburg Road should have more choices in places to buy items.

“I’m all for the success of small business and if Henry’s has loyal customers, then I feel certain they will continue to patron there,” Jimenez said. “I personally like the products dollar stores sell with their reasonable prices. If you don’t want to shop there, then don’t.”

The Warren County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the rezoning request at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 20 at the Warren County Government Center in Front Royal.

<p id=’reporter_info’>Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or <a href=’mailto:hculvyhouse@nvdaily.com’>hculvyhouse@nvdaily.com</a></p>