Investors, in prosperous times, might look down their noses at Dollar Tree ( DLTR) and Family Dollar ( FDO) as stores that occupy the bottom rung of the retail food chain. But given the economic conditions, these bargain emporiums have now risen to "buy" status. (The companies' shares, that is, and -- well, maybe even the stuff they peddle for a buck a throw.) Family Tree and Family Dollar stand as the only general multiline retail firms with "overall grades" from TheStreet.com Ratings in the "B" range, qualifying as "buy" recommendations. Retail heavyweights such as Macy's ( M), Nordstrom ( JWN), Target ( TGT) and Kohl's ( KSS) find themselves burdened with "risk grades" in the "D" range. With "overall" marks in the "C" area, each is considered a "hold." Saks ( SKS), along with upscale Nordstrom, recently suffered credit downgrades from Moody's. TheStreet.com Ratings recommendation for Saks dwells in "sell" territory. DLTR and FDO can best be described as establishments like McDonald's ( MCD), but with the "Dollar Menu" extended to virtually anything that might be needed around the house. Dollar Tree operates more than 3,400 variety retail stores in 48 states, while more than 6,500 Family Dollar Stores can be found in 44 states. Each sells most every item for an even buck. Despite the economic slump, the consensus of analysts is that after-tax earnings per share of Dollar Tree will advance 7.1% in the current year while Family Dollar's will climb 13%. Next year, Dollar Tree's net is expected to grow 10.7%, while Family Dollar will expand 8.3%. As can be seen in the accompanying table, each has attained a respectable return on equity of more than 18%.