ELDERSBURG -- Shirley Harding spent part of her lunch hour yesterday hunting for bargains at the new Dollar Discount store in the Freedom Village Shopping Center.
"I know when I come here I'm going to see something I need," she said.
She filled a red plastic shopping basket to the brim with place mats, freezer wrap, plastic containers, silk flowers and pickles. Total bill: $11.50.
Harding, 56, a health assistant at Springfield Hospital Center, also has found that the variety store is the place to go when the urge to spend money strikes.
"When you're shopping to overcome depression, the dollar store is a good place to go," she said, laughing and adding that she can spend $5 and feel great.
At Dollar Discount, which opened here Friday, the shelves are lined with plastic orange piggy banks, party hats, paper plates and paprika -- all for $1.
"Everybody's interested in a bargain these days," said Betty H. Cornwell, 63, who owns the shop with her husband, Robert C. Cornwell. They live several miles from the store.
Her stepson, Steve Cornwell, 36, of Westminster, left his job as a surveyor to manage the store.
He recently completed a five-day training course for new store managers sponsored by Dollar Discount Stores of America Inc., based in Boothwyn, Pa.
A company brochure says an initial investment of $89,250 to $119,925 is needed to open a store. The franchise chain has 30 stores in six states. Sales last year were $15 million.
The store here is the first Dollar Discount store where every item costs $1 or less, Steve Cornwell said.
"They say it is not a recession-proof business, but it's probably pretty close to being one," he said.
Plastic products -- laundry baskets, buckets and toys -- are the biggest sellers, he said. Health and beauty products, candy and school supplies also are selling well, he said.
Signs hanging from the ceiling in the 2,000-square-foot store direct customers to 10 departments, including food, hardware, toys and stationery.
The company recommends keeping shelves stocked and varying the merchandise mix, Steve Cornwell said.
Many customers have said they're glad the store opened because they had been driving to the Only One Dollar store at Cranberry Mall in Westminster for bargains, Betty Cornwell said.
Cornwell family members are pitching in to help get the business going. Robert Cornwell owns a truck repair business in Laurel, so he can't spend much time in the store, but his wife dons an apron and rings up sales.
Steve's wife, Jill, an assistant branch manager at Union National Bank, and his sisters, Kim Brown of Westminster and Kathy Cornwell of Eldersburg, help out when they can.