Leave it to Atascadero to find a cheaper store than the cheapest retailer doing business in San Luis Obispo County.
Yes, the city that’s already home to a Dollar Tree will soon welcome a 99¢ Only Store.
Someone needs to hurry up and open a 98-cent store, because I know where it could find a home.
Don’t get me wrong. I love these dollar stores.
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Where else can you find greeting cards for a third of the price Hallmark charges, candy perfectly sized and priced to smuggle into the movies and enough off-brands of soap, TV dinners and aluminum foil to stock your root cellar for years?
That being said — and I’ve said it before — enough is enough.
Why, oh why, can’t we get some — any! — slightly more upscale shopping opportunities in this burg?
If you haven’t cruised your Studebaker down El Camino Real any time lately, let me give you a look at the wealth of discount retailers you’ll find — some good, some not so good. We’ll start at the north end:
Dollar Tree: Everything costs a dollar, but it was probably manufactured in Bangladesh by orphaned children. If you can come to terms with that, you can save some coin while filling all of your Kewpie-doll and helium-balloon needs.
Grocery Outlet: Food, but cheaper than at Vons or Albertsons. I’m OK with this concept.
Big Lots: The rich man’s Dollar Tree — or the poor man’s Kmart. More stuff made in Bangladesh, only in larger quantities — plus DVDs of movies you’ve never heard of, electronics that are sure to break on the third or fourth use and other random miscellany.
Kmart: The reigning king of the discount retailers in Atascadero. On the plus side, you can pick up Kenmore washers, newly released Xbox games and clothes from Selena Gomez and Sofia Vergara.
On the minus side, you can buy shoes with Velcro straps. Next door is a Cigarettes Cheaper. That and the Velcro shoes are not helping Kmart’s cred.
Empty lot that used to be home to North County Christian’s thrift store: It used to be a thrift store.
Now it’s an empty lot. Neither helped raise Atascadero’s retail profile.
Empty lots around the Galaxy Theatre: If any piece of property has the potential to give us a Williams-Sonoma or even a Jamba Juice, this is it. But now it’s just dirt.
99¢ Only Store: The aforementioned new pocket-change shop is taking the place of the Grocery Discount Center, which is relocating nearby. I’m sure one or the other will sell day-old Little Debbie snack cakes.
Designer’s Outlet: While we’re in the Vons center, we can’t miss this relatively new distributor of stuff that wasn’t moving from the shelves of Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s. That’s where they say their inventory comes from. But it looks more like overstock from Ross.
CVS: This used to be a Longs Drugs, back in the day. Now it has a floor made of a weird, green, feltlike material. That alone makes me turn around and walk out.
Goodwill: If you haven’t found the deal you’re looking for up to now, you can always try America’s most famous used store. Who knows … maybe that box of baseball cards includes a Honus Wagner.
This is the only cheap retailer whose shopping experience offers the chance that you might hit the jackpot and find someone else’s misplaced treasure.
Food 4 Less: I like this store. It’s kind of the Costco of grocery stores. Good inventory, great prices and now that I’m bringing my own bags, loading them up myself makes even more sense than it did before.
Finally, the Goodwill donation trailer: All that stuff you bought at the previous stores in the list? This is where it ends up.
So there you go: One budget-minded store after another, all fiercely hoping to help you dispose of your disposable income.
When you take them in their entirety, you might wonder why so many of these separate little places exist, scattered about like lost pennies under a vending machine.
Instead of nickel-and-diming us to death with all these five-and-dimes, why don’t they just join forces in some Mega Big Dollar Designer Discount Outlet Center and set up shop on some empty lot?
Oh yeah, I forgot. That’s happening, too.
Joe Tarica can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.