The Dollar & Up convenience store on the corner of 37th & Chicago has been open for under a month, but already it has the feel of something special, something much more than a corporate chain. On Sept. 23, owners Harrison Hollivay, DeParis Frazier and Nathaniel Haile mingled with old friends and new customers, talking life, sports, the neighborhood — and good credit rating.
“We’re talking credit,” Frazier said. “People don’t understand the power in having good credit, and there’s been a lot of people that have been held back due to the lack of this information, so I think to have a store and information station to be able to disseminate that across the community is imperative.”
To be sure, in a relatively short time, the independent “black owned and operated” Dollar & Up has nurtured a distinctly different environment — that of a community hub, bar or barbershop—than the similarly named Dollar Store franchises around town, and that’s no mistake.
“I just want to see something grow here,” said Haile. “This is where people congregate. This is a cornerstone of a vibrant community. People come in and say hello and laugh and joke and network, and it’s just a positive light in the community — another positive place for youth and adults to be at.”
“This is our neighborhood,” said Frazier. “We actually lived in this neighborhood, still do, and my dad was the founder of Circle Of Discipline, which actually started right here as a nonprofit organization that gives back to the youth, helping to create mental, physical, spiritual balance and [leading them toward] becoming leaders in the community. It started in this exact same spot in 1992, and it sits at 1201 Lake St. now, and that experience taught me about what it means to give back. Empowering somebody else by the moves that you make is imperative to leaving a legacy behind.”
“The location is prime,” said Hollivay. “I saw the vision for the community, versus folks having to travel in a 10-block radius for these valuable items that are essential to low-income families, and I felt that it would be very key for them to have something in their neighborhood, something they could call their own. So that’s what we based our whole theme on, pricing these items fairly for them so they’re not being squeezed by other entities that’s profiting off of their dollar, versus not putting it back in the community.
“We’re also reaching out to our kids in the community, so we can be able to give them an opportunity to be owners in the future as well, or have the tools to be able to work sufficiently and feel their value. This is what we want to do. We want to raise and train our kids to be strong-minded and understand their worth.”
To that end, the Dollar & Up Facebook page has already become an electronic bulletin board for community events and news.
“It’s our neighborhood. We came from it. We used to spend our dollars at other convenience stores around the area,” said Frazier. “When our website is up and running, we’ll be offering free delivery to senior citizens and handicapped people in the area. Nobody does that, so that’s another thing that separates us from everybody else.”
“It’s the hospitality aspect,” Hollivay said. “It’s not coached or rehearsed; it’s just what we’re really doing. It just flows naturally. We’re starting a job-training program for the junior high and the high school kids who come in after school. We really stand behind it. We’re going to do it. It’s not like we’re waiting for somebody to give us the green light, or we’re waiting for funding, or anything of that nature. We are going to do it.”
A scan of the Dollar & Up shelves reveals high-quality and low-price household items, including detergent, hats, gloves, kitchen utensils, vitamins, boots, shoes, medicine, hair products, incense and automobile needs. The front counter overflows with gig flyers and business cards, and amidst the snacks and candy sit Rap Snacks, whose packages feature the faces of Fetty Wap, Romeo Miller and Migos. Clearly, though the store’s tagline says “We Value Your $1,” that’s not all that’s valued at Dollar & Up.
“We’ve got comment cards that ask, ‘What are the products you’d like to see in your store in the neighborhood?’” said Frazier. “We could have filled up the shelves with what we thought the community wanted, but we prefer to have them fill them up with what they want. When they put down what they want, we order it and reach out to them and let them know their products have arrived.”
“It connects us with you. You feel more inclined to be with us when you get an email from us,” said Hollivay. “The neighborhood has grown. I’ve seen the change. We’re from this area; we’ve seen it from the worst to now, and it’s more diverse — it’s way more open and friendly — and we want to bring this feel to everybody coming through the door. Because this is what you deserve: You’re supposed to be greeted when you come in. We’re making sure that you see the value that we see in you. That’s our goal.”
Jim Walsh lives and grew up in South Minneapolis. He can be reached at email@example.com.