"Do what you love. Then you won't regret coming into work on Monday" - Cal Turner Sr. (from the Dollar General website)
Cal Turner Sr, the founder of Dollar General Corp., died late Tuesday at the age of 85. Working alongside his father, J.L. Turner, Mr. Turner created what is regarded today as one of Middle Tennessee's largest and most successful public companies since moving its headquarters here in 1989.
Born Hurley Calister Turner on May 28, 1915, in Macon County, Tenn., Mr. Turner developed an interest in commerce and trading at an early age by working along side his father, J.L. Turner, and helping him with his business of buying and liquidating bankrupt general stores during the Depression.
Having honed his business skills during childhood, Mr. Turner was able to open his first store, Turner and Son Wholesale, with his father in 1939. As dry goods wholesaling declined after World War II, Cal decided to shift his business focus from wholesale to retail, a strategy that paid off, providing Mr. Turner with annual sales of more than $2 million by the early 1950s. His business began to grow, and by the mid-1950s he was responsible for thirty-five department stores in Kentucky and Tennessee.
Cal Turner Sr. studied his competition closely, and in 1955 he proposed an innovation that would transform his company into a leader in the discount retail industry. Basing his ideas on the success of "Dollar Days" promotions that were held occasionally at major department stores, Mr. Turner suggested opening retail stores that would sell all of their items for a dollar.
Even though his colleagues greeted this idea with skepticism, Turner continued to develop his business idea and on June 1, 1955, he converted Turner's Department Store in Springfield, Ky., to the first Dollar General Store.
With annual sales of more than $40 million and a net income exceeding $1.5 million, the company went public in 1968 as Dollar General Corp. Cal Turner Sr. led the company as chairman and president until 1977, when his son, Cal Turner Jr., succeeded him as president of the company.
In 1989, after leading the company he founded for over half a century, Turner Sr. retired as chairman of Dollar General. Today, Dollar General is a leading discount retail chain with 4,900 stores in 25 states.
Described by company officials as a "genuinely humble, self-effacing individual driven by the value of hard work," Mr. Turner developed Dollar General by emphasizing the ethics of hard work and customer service. Turner remained loyal to these principles and stressed the importance of "small town" friendliness and atmosphere.
"Small town America contributes to a better life," Mr. Turner once said. "I think you have to make an effort to be a better person (in a small town) because people know your habits, there is a closeness, and an accountability and there is a priceless spirit."
Turner cherished the spirit of the small town -- all of Dollar General's 4,900 stores are located either in small towns or lower-income urban areas.
Since moving its headquarters to Nashville in 1989, Turner's company has made several contributions to the city in the past decade. In 1993, Dollar General opened a store and training center in South Nashville's Same Levy housing project, a template that led to the development of similar stores that help welfare recipients work and develop job skills. In addition, Dollar General relocated its corporate headquarters in the past year to new facilities in Goodlettsville.
Cal Turner Sr. is survived by his children, Laura Turner Dugas, Cal Turner Jr., Betty Turner Campbell and Steve Turner, eight grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren.
Two visitations will be held: the first on Wednesday, November 15, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.; the second on Thursday, November 16, from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.; both at T.W. Crow & Son Funeral Home, 201 North Court Street, in Scottsville, Ky. The funeral service will be held Thursday, November 16, at 1 p.m., at the Scottsville-Allen County High School Auditorium, 1545 Bowling Green Road, in Scottsville. Doors will open at 11:30 a.m. The graveside service will immediately follow, at Crescent Hill Cemetery
Editor's note: Information in this article came from several sources, including Bill Carey's book Fortunes, Fiddles and Fried Chicken: A Business History of Nashville and a release from Dollar General Corp.