(WETM) – The availability of the dollar store is nothing new, but in recent years the fast expansion of these discount retailers, especially Dollar General, has gained public attention.

A quick Google search of “Dollar General meme” generates countless images about the retail chain cropping up seemingly everywhere, including on Mars and inside Bob Ross paintings.

But just how many Dollar General Stores are there in the U.S. and how did the company grow so much?

Early last year, between Elmira, West Elmira, and Southport, there were six Dollar General stores. Then, another one opened up on Elmira’s southside. Then, there was a proposal to open another in Big Flats.

According to the company’s site, in Chemung County, there are at least 13 locations; in Steuben, there are at least 16; in Schuyler, at least three. In Tioga County, Pa., there are at least nine. There are at least nine in the Owego-Waverly-Sayre areas and around ten more near Ithaca and southern Seneca County.

The company started with a single store in 1939. Over the decades, it grew from that single store, rebranded into “Dollar General” and started to dip its toes into selling more and more products. The stores are especially common in places without other big box stores.

For example, in Horseheads, along CR64 there are no Dollar General stores in the area with larger retail stores. But in the more rural parts of the town and county, they start cropping up. In a place like Knoxville, Pa., the nearest big store (like Walmart) is over half an hour away in Mansfield. But, in what would otherwise be a food desert, there is a Dollar General less than 10 minutes up the road in Westfield, where you can still buy the essentials of pretty much anything.

According to the company’s description of its history, in 1989, it had 1,000 stores. That follows a near exponential curve since. In 2000, 5,000 stores; in 2004, there were 7,000; in 2013, 11,000; in 2015, it had 12,000 locations; by 2020, it had 17,000 stores; and in 2023, it has more than 18,000 locations across the U.S. Since it’s beginning, the company has talked itself up as a store committed to keeping prices low.

Other huge dollar stores are also extremely common. Dollar Tree also has around 16,000 stores. together with its Family Dollar brand (there are four Family Dollars. in Elmira and Southport).