Years ago, if someone asked me to think of a dollar store, my mind went to a dimly lit room with shelves stocked full of crap. Plastic dolls that vaguely resembled Barbie (if the lights were bad and you squinted enough). Ones with arms and legs that didn’t move and heads that popped off. Plastic wrapped note sets with pens that didn’t work and pads barely wide enough to write a single word. Plastic cars with wheels that fell off. And gaudy ceramic vases; I’m pretty sure the vases simply moved from one dollar store to the next as one store closed and another opened. I certainly never saw anyone buy one. Then I entered Dollarama.
I can’t remember why I was at that end of town. I just remember I had too much time to hang around the bus stop and not enough time to go anywhere… but there was a new dollar store right there. Right where Biway used to be. I walked in and WOW! It was bright and clean, an actual store instead of a hole in the wall. The first aisle held gift bags, nice ones at that, and real toys. I wandered up and down the aisles, keeping track of the time, and promising myself I’d go back. I definitely went back, I ended up working there.
Many years have passed since then. Dollarama’s spread a lot and improved even more. Of course their price has increased as well from a buck (or less) to $4 (or less) but I think the quality makes it worthwhile. I’ve found things that were regularly double, triple, or even quadruple the price in other stores. Same brand… same packaging. Recently Dollarama was selling RO tablet holders which were shaped like wooden bread boards. They retailed for $45, Dollarama sold them for $4. Sadly I never found any.
I raised my kids as a single Mom and never had much money. There were so many birthdays and holidays that simply wouldn’t have happened if Dollarama wasn’t there. But the events all happened with happy kids and fond memories. Dinkie cars, toy Spiderman, art sets, stuffed dolls, figurines, articulated wooden snakes… they were all loved and played with.
These days I’m in my empty nest but I’m also living off disability so money’s still tight. Luckily I found a Facebook group called Dollarama Hauls and Finds. The group is amazing. People post about the purchases they’ve made, items they’ve found, and what they’ve done with said purchases. Many include photos. My favourites are when someone goes around the store taking photos then shares forty pictures. It’s like window shopping without leaving my room.
I use the group to sort out what items I really want to buy, either for myself or to put away as a gift. It’s helped a lot because I know exactly where to look when I go shopping and there’s been a few items I would have missed if I hadn’t actively been searching there. The downside is there’s gorgeous items I’ve missed out on, like the aforementioned tablet holder, that I never would have known about otherwise. But I have found incredible things. Watercolour canvases, funky pop art, wooden word art, artificial succulents in clay pots, ships in glass bottles, Cuisinart wooden knife blocks… the list is extensive. My home would be almost barren if it wasn’t for Dollarama.
And tomorrow I’ll be off to another Dollarama because one thing the group has sucked me into is barnwood stickers. They are being stuck everywhere on any flat surface and I have an ugly front door to cover.