Truth be told, many maligned the much discussed long before it even officially moved into its Valley location.
Even now, bringing up the topic about town will get you more than a few melancholy mentions of what the place might have been, from a roller-skating rink to a bowling alley to the holy grail of all Maplewoodian longings: our very own Trader Joe’s...
Still, most remain confused about what the : for starters, it’s not just a ‘Dollar Store’, but rather an eclectic department/liquidator hybrid offering a wide array of items from hardware to home décor, party goods to office supplies:
“I come in all the time,” explains one shopper, Connie, while perusing the kitchen supply section. “It has everything and saves you the time of having to make trips to other places.”
Those who dismiss it as merely a place filled with cheap fare from China will find many of the same name brands and items they probably pay a premium for at more marketed mainstream big box shops. “They have a lot of the exact stuff you find at Target,” says Fernanda, browsing Halloween décor. “They just have it here for much less. That’s why I come here - for the value.”
If you can see past the lackluster lack of curb appeal, inside you’ll find a friendly, well-stocked and organized purveyor of affordable options. Spend some time wandering the aisles and you’ll also come to appreciate a store with a distinctly grounded charm of its own and some seriously savvy savings, too.
Cynical? Here, then, are a dozen dazzling incentives that just might motivate you to give this place more than a passing glance:
- Hair Care - From fun, fashionable clips, to cute combs, brushes, headbands and pony-tail holders, you’ll find a stellar collection from names like Conair & Scunci that’ll run you up to five times as much at big retail chains.
- School and Office Supplies – If you’re sick of playing ‘find the pencil with a functioning eraser’ come homework time, here’s a place where you can stock up on extras for pennies. Ditto on cute, sassy notebooks, clip boards, staples and folders. Basically, this store stocks basic office goods at prices that make Staples look like Saks.
- Hand Sanitizers - Given the amount of sniffles and coughs that accompany this season, pocket sized-sanitizers are more a necessity that an indulgence and if picked up here- for $1 for a pack of multipacks - they’re also very affordable, leaving more money left to spring on tissues! Speaking of which….
- Tissues and Paper Products – Schools these days expect you to supply your child’s weight in paper products…you’ll find plenty here at prices you won’t sneeze at. ‘Nough said.
- Party Goods – Everyone loves a great party! The price of footing a super soiree? Not so much. From balloons to decorations, goodie bag filings to coordinating paper plates, cups and napkins this place is a one-stop shop for festive fiestas, birthday bashes and seasonal soirees. Pinatas, too!
- Gift Wrap & Cards - Nice gift bags can cost as much as much as a decent present these days, but not here: Tape, tissue, ribbons and cute cards are all here for a fraction of what you’d pay at Tar-jay.
- Hardware – Why waste time scrounging hunting about the bottom of a cluttered tool box when you can pick up a neat and organized container of nails and screws for a buck. Masking tape? Twine? Safety goggles? You can stock up on all the things here for less than you’d spend on the gas you’d waste circling around the mega lot to find a spot within a half-mile of Depot.
- Cleansers – Okay, they might not all be the most earth-friendly or organic of options, if you’re in a pinch for glass cleaner or Comet you’ve come to the right place with plentiful parking spots and sans long lines. Same goes for detergents and dryer sheets, too.
- Home Goods & House Wares - Looking for a crisp, clear glass container to keep your cotton balls contained? ($1.99) How about a pale olive green ceramic jar to house – and pour - your olive oil? ($1.49 – really – and it’s totally Tuscany in feel!) Colorful clay pots for your herbs? ($1.49) Seriously, if you browse with an open mind and a bit of imagination you can discover what most party planners and home stagers already know: expensive looking things thrive everywhere – at every price point.
- Batteries – Any parent of young children knows that a large part of your job description entails changing batteries for the countless items that your kids depend on daily for survival like Wii and Light Sabers…Here’s a place to stock up on all sizes so you won’t be found lacking when the Energizer bunny kicks the bucket.
- Umbrellas – Tired of running through the downpour to your trunk to find your spouse already ‘borrowed’ your spare umbrella? Sick of realizing that mangled mess on the bottom of the coat closet -so badly misshapen last micro-blast that it's easier to solve Rubik’s Cube than close properly – is the ONLY umbrella option you've got left? Stock up here for just $1.99 – 4.99. Sooooooo priceless.
And, lastly, 12. :
Holiday décor – Yes, yes, it’s mostly made in China, but check the tags on most every other store around and you’ll find most decorations are... What’s different here? The prices and the styles. Seriously! Take a look at what’s left of the Halloween and Autumnal offerings and a gander at the Holiday preview and I promise you'll be pleased– especially when you compare it to what the big chains are selling this season.
Takeaway: I’m mainly a Mom & Pop shop sort of gal, but places like this can – and do – serve a definite need in our community. Dollar Variety Dollar & Discount Variety definitely cuts down on my runs to Rt. 22 - not to Springfield Avenue or the Village – and moreover it helps me save some extra dollars I can then use to splurge on the local shops I love to support.
Soooo, if you haven’t stopped in yourself, it might be worth your while to visit this valuable Valley gem, too.
Dollar Variety Dollar & Discount Store 453 Vallet Street, Maplewood, NJ