Granite Shoals police monitor the shutdown of the Dollar General on RR 1431 after it was officially closed by Fire Marshal Chris Cowan for numerous violations of the International Fire Code. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey
UPDATE, DEC. 2
The Granite Shoals Dollar General reopened Friday, Dec. 2, after an inspection from Fire Marshal Chris Cowan determined the store had remedied many of the fire code violations he found during his Nov. 28 inspection.
Cowan shut down the popular discount store on Monday after finding numerous violations of the International Fire Code and said it would not be allowed to reopen until the issues were addressed.
After his Friday inspection, Cowan told DailyTrib.com the main issue of cluttered aisles had been fixed, leading to him lifting the mandated closure.
According to Cowan, staff from Dollar General stores across Central Texas worked around the clock to address the issues at the Granite Shoals location, removing truckloads of overstocked merchandise.
“All in all, they did a really great job in coming together to get this store a clean slate,” he said. “We’ve worked with them for a long time to get them to this point, but it’s unfortunate that it took a shutdown to get them to pay attention.”
The Dollar General store at 7111 RR 1431 in Granite Shoals was shut down Monday, Nov. 28, for numerous violations of the International Fire Code. The business will not be allowed to reopen until it is in full compliance, said Granite Shoals Fire Marshal Chris Cowan.
Cowan first inspected the store on Nov. 23 and found cluttered aisles, obstructed exits, expired fire extinguishers, and unmarked chemicals, all of which violate fire code. He gave management the Thanksgiving holiday weekend to bring the store up to code. After returning the Monday after with members of the Granite Shoals police and fire departments, he found not much had been done.
Granite Shoals police have been receiving complaints about the store’s obstructed aisles for at least the past two years, according to Cowan, which was his main concern. Every aisle is designated as a “means of egress” in the fire code and must be at least 44 inches wide with no obstructions. At the time of the store’s mandated shutdown, no aisle met the minimum standards due to the excess merchandise and storage carts blocking every maneuverable corridor.
No charges have been pressed against the store and Cowan is working with Dollar General management on a timeline for correcting violations and reopening the business. If the violations are not fixed in a reasonable amount of time, the popular discount chain store could face fines for every day of recorded violations and have its certificate of occupancy revoked by the Granite Shoals city manager.
Store manager Sarah Williams cited lack of staff and overstocking as chronic causes for the fire code violations. She told DailyTrib.com that she had been store manager for two months and was only made aware of the violations two weeks ago.
“We’ll get it sorted out,” she said.
Cowan said he closed the store over concerns for the safety of staff and shoppers or any first responder who would have to navigate the cluttered store during a fire or medical emergency.
“It’s a clutter issue, but the clutter creates a life safety issue throughout the whole store that is going to prevent people in a panic from getting out,” Cowan said. “The citizens of Granite Shoals deserve better and deserve safer.”
While Cowan clearly takes the safety issues seriously, he also explained he is not looking to hurt the business.
“My main thing is compliance,” he said. “I want to see them succeed. I want to see the store open and do good business and be around for the people of Granite Shoals, but it’s got to be safe for everybody.”