People Buy Stuff

Paul Bass PhotoFor the first time in 10 years, cash registers are ringing inside a 9,000-square foot storefront near downtown’s “100-percent Corner” for a steady stream of customers purchasing one-dollar toothpaste tubes, Fudge Graham cookies, picture frames, and Good & Clean dish detergent.

Nonstop, people were buying stuff, lots and lots of stuff, inexpensive stuff, inside a new dollar store on the first floor of an upscale apartment complex at the corner of Church and Chapel streets.

Looking to upgrade New Haven’s central commercial crossroads, city officials had hoped that customers would be buying expensive clothing or other high-end retail inside that storefront instead of patronizing a dollar store. For years the building’s owner tried to comply and sought to lure an upscale retailer. Every such retailer spurned the entreaties.

In the end the market spoke: the Dollar Tree chain fixed up the space and had a soft opening for a new outlet last Thursday. A month of more official “grand opening” events are in the works.

Despite the fears of civic leaders (click here to read about that as well as the broader debate about retail development on the block), first-time shoppers of all stripes gave the new store a thumbs-up during initial visits.

Feeling nauseated, and having a hunch why, Jennete Perez (pictured) came looking for a pregnancy kit. She found one that cost $1, as all the store’s merchandise does. Along her way through the aisles, she stumbled on some one-dollar measuring cups and other kitchen items. She decided she’d like to make a cake.

“There’s so much you can buy here,” she exulted, between winces. “I love it. It has everything I need.”

Sandra Kasongo, who moved here from Congo a year and a half ago, checked out the shower curtains. “It makes people who don’t have money to get what they need,” she said.

Shoppers, some of whom work or live downtown, others who were just passing through, showed up the other day out of curiosity, and ended up exploring seemingly endless rows of brightly-packaged items ranging from Dr. Fresh Spider Sense Spider Man toothbrushes ...

... Good & Clean dish detergent and back-to-school spiral notebooks, washable glue pens, and soft rubber Premium heel grippers, to Wise potato chips, Aim toothpaste, and heavy duty aluminum foil.

The packages in the coolers included frozen roasted fingerling potatoes, TJ Farms stir fry blend veggies, Jumbo Hand Rolled miniature shrimp egg rolls. All a buck each.

“It’s nice. It’s very neat. It’s bringing people in,” said Apreia Coper, who visited the store out of “curiosity” and left with sundae ice-cream cones.

Building owner Michael Schaffer said he has noticed the store already drawing brisk, steady business since it opened. On-site store managers referred questions to national Dollar Tree corporate spokeswoman Shelly Davis. Davis said the company “does not divulge” single-store sales or differences in inventory at the over 5,000 Dollar Tree stores located in the 48 continental states.

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posted by: HewNaven on July 25, 2014  1:40pm

“It makes people who don’t have money to get what they need,” she said

Wrong. The goal is the same as in almost any other retail environment: entice the shopper to purchase things they do not need. One could also comment on the ethical implications of performing these kind of tricks on our poorest neighbors.

posted by: Mary Brown on July 25, 2014  5:12pm

Should everyone read about a woman buying a pregnancy test for $1? This seems very inappropriate. I am surprised she agreed to be photographed. That is a private and emotional matter!

posted by: TheMadcap on July 25, 2014  5:35pm

Buying a pregnancy test is only a private matter if you want it to be.

Also what the heck HewNaven, I don’t know if you know this, but poor people in fact need to buy things, and every store in existence has a goal of getting customers to buy more.

posted by: Walt on July 25, 2014  5:42pm

Even 60 years ago, east of Church Street was low-end Shartenberg,, Stsnley. five and dime stores, cheap shoe chains.

West of Church was high end for the most part, Malley, Hamilton,  Michaels’, and high price specialty shops.

Changing times   and new buildings did not help Malley and Macy   or many of the   other shops to thrive

Yale oriented shops to the west and a   few old-time shops   survive,mostly because of their closeness to Yale folk

Downtown New Haven is not that different than hundred o0f downtowns across the nation.  Subsidize it if you wish ,  but its time   for dominance of retailing in the area is long-gone.

They are lucky to get even a new Dollar store

Hope it succeeds

posted by: Nashstreeter on July 26, 2014  1:28am

I remember, too, Walt. Congress Pants, Grants and Malley’s. I’ve only been in New Haven 50 years—after they tore Shartenbergs down—but I did my share of shopping in that area. I even got my wedding ring from Grants for $1.49 (hey, it was a hippie thing to show my disdain for proper custom. It turned my finger green in about 3 days). Macy’s was a wonderful addition, even tho Malley’s suffered from the competition, and the whole conglomeration of stores, like Goldie-Libro Music and Horowitz’s, seemed to thrive off the existence of each other. I wouldn’t knock the Dollar Store just yet.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on July 27, 2014  12:30pm

I shop at the dollar tree. I do not think that I get stuff I do not need. But I do get stuff I can not afford at other stores.
Hoover carpet cleaner $10 same product without the label $1. I do not NEED carpet cleaner but it is nice to have a clean rug for $1, a wet vac and a fan.

Basic tools Something every single women should have but may not NEED, go to the tool shops…fifty bucks vs 8 bucks for a few basic tools that may save you even more money alot the road.

Aspirin, cough medicine, and other every day aliment pills $1 vs starting at $4. I maybe able to live with the headache or a cough but it is nice to not have to.

Dishes, glasses: I got dishes that look just like pier 1 dishs $25 bucks each…for a dollar each have had them for years. Even Walmart sells the same dishes for $4 bucks each. Not a need because you can go to a thrift store and get missed match for 50 cents each but doesn’t everyone deserve some nice household things?

What about a kids bday party…dollar store can make a low income kids parent be able to make it just a little more special for a few dollars. For twenty dollar she can get a cake, decorations, party favors and even some presents to wrap.
Infact I get the stuff for our community get togethers at dollar tree. making it just a bit more special for the kids.
School supplies to.
lets not forget the food
Read this:

and the list goes on. It is all in the way you view it.

And as Walt pointed out these block have always been for the working poor. EX the Poor man library across the street from the dollar store.

posted by: Eva G on July 27, 2014  4:11pm

I am not struggling to get by the way some people are, but I know perfectly well that when I want a can of Ajax and a bottle of inexpensive hair conditioner, the place to hit is the dollar store. Ditto curling ribbon for birthday presents, contact paper for kitchen shelves, and a thousand other things that I can’t easily get anywhere else downtown. If we have a nice clean new dollar store downtown, that’s A-OK with me.
I also remember going to Kresge’s when I was little, and Horowitz’s second floor (to get cheaper clothes), and it’s true, the presence of the Institute Library across the street definitely does indicate: this kind of operation has been in this section of Chapel Street a long time. Grousing because a Williams-Sonoma didn’t move in there doesn’t benefit anyone. Keeping the space empty also doesn’t benefit anyone. I look forward to stopping into the new dollar store this week, in fact…

Thanks, Cedar Hill, for posting the link above.

posted by: JohnTulin on July 28, 2014  8:54am

HN - Talk about WRONG.  Not everything is a plan by the man to get the little guy. 

We throw a party for kids b-day.  I can buy plates, cups etc at Stop and Shop…..or I can buy the SAME STUFF at Dollar Stores for 75% less. 

I don’t need them?  That’s unethical?  “One” should think about the realities of living check to check before the pontificate about abstract ethical dilemmas.  Some of us don’t have the luxury to as we are too busy trying to get by.

posted by: HewNaven on July 28, 2014  11:22am

For those having a hard time understanding my point, let me put it another way:

Retail environments are planned and designed to entice a shopper to leave the store with more than they came for. I never said you couldn’t find some really cheap stuff. Dollar stores are full of that cheap stuff, we all know that. Thanks for sharing your shopping list.

P.S. Next time you’re there you might survey the employees and especially the ‘managers’ to see how they are being treated. Let’s not even get into how the producers of that cheap stuff are being treated. (It’s the closest thing to legal slavery on the planet). Go ahead pat yourself on the back for those penny-pinching purchases.

posted by: NHV Greenie on July 28, 2014  11:28am

Now what?

From today’s DealBook, NYTimes: Updated, 7:06 a.m. | Dollar Tree agreed on Monday to buy Family Dollar Stores for about $8.5 billion in cash and stock, uniting two of North America’s biggest deep-discount retailers.

The deal comes amid pressure on Family Dollar by the activist investor Carl C. Icahn, who urged the company last month to explore a sale of itself. But Family Dollar said in a statement that it had been exploring strategic options since the winter.

posted by: HewNaven on July 28, 2014  11:46am

Feeling nauseated, and having a hunch why, Jennete Perez (pictured) came looking for a pregnancy kit. She found one that cost $1, as all the store’s merchandise does. Along her way through the aisles, she stumbled on some one-dollar measuring cups and other kitchen items. She decided she’d like to make a cake.

She came for a pregnancy test and then thought, gee, I think I’ll bake a cake. You’re all right, that has nothing to do with retail merchants understanding behavioral psychology and preying on people’s impulses and urges. It must just be a HUGE coincidence that most people who go to a store walk out with more than they came for.

Keep throwing your money away, folks. Blame it on the person who tries to help.

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on July 29, 2014  6:23am

This article mentioned toothpaste at least three times, and toothpaste is ONE of the things that consumers should NOT purchase at a Dollar Store.  While it is useful to be able to purchase items at a store such as this for considerable less than one can at other retail stores, there are items (especially food, cosmetic, and medicinal), due to their ingredients, that should NOT be purchased there.

People should search the internet for a list of those items, to be safe.

posted by: sandstorm on July 29, 2014  9:36am

While it would have been nice to have a more impressive operation at this gateway location, it is wonderful that we finally have a store that supports the basic needs of downtown residents. For too long, downtown has boasted fabulous boutiques for browsing and purchasing impulse items that no one needs; they had to go to Walgreens or Stop and Shop for light bulbs and other basics. This will be an asset to our increasing roster of downtown apartments. If we want to be a great livable city, we must provide goods and services that accommodate our urban growth.

posted by: BillSaunders1 on July 29, 2014  3:49pm

Well, looks like the Family Dollar down the street is not longed for this world…..