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Dollar General gains by targeting small towns, as in Western Pa.

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In this Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, file photo, customers exit a Dollar General store, in San Antonio.

Discount store chain Dollar General is thriving in some of the country’s most economically disadvantaged areas, and Western Pennsylvania is part of the company’s plans for a massive nationwide expansion.

Dollar General stores can flourish in the small towns and rural areas without a Wal-Mart or other major grocery chain, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Its low startup and operating costs allow it to turn a profit in small, low-income communities that would not be lucrative for other retailers.

Low-income households are the chain’s primary customers. And a sluggish economic recovery, particularly in rural areas, has helped grow Dollar General’s reach, the Journal said.

“The economy is continuing to create more of our core customer,” Dollar General Chief Executive Todd Vasos told the Journal. “We are putting stores today (in areas) that perhaps five years ago were just on the cusp of probably not being our demographic, and it has now turned to being our demographic.”

Company profits have topped $1 billion a year since 2014.

It has about 14,000 stores, with plans to build thousands more over the next few years.

Western Pennsylvania has been a major target for expansion.

New stores opened in South Greensburg , Crabtree and Baldwin this year, each employing about 10 people.

A store is under construction in Hempfield, and another has been proposed for West Deer .

Greensburg developer PennTex Ventures told the Tribune-Review in June it has built more than 60 Dollar General stores since 2010, with plans to build an additional 50 by the end of 2018.

PennTex declined to comment for this story.

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6646, [email protected] or via Twitter @Soolseem.

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