The almighty dollar At mall stores, a buck buys all

April 28, 1993|By Sandra Crockett | Sandra Crockett,Staff Writer

The spendthrift lifestyles of the '80s are gone, gone, gone. Bargain shopping and budgeting have become tres chic, setting the market for dollar stores, where merchandise can be bought for a buck or less.

Owings Mills Town Center and Towson Town Center are just two of the malls in the area that have jumped on the dollar-store bandwagon.

"You mean everything here is just $1?" a first-time customer asks Patti String, manager of All for One at the Owings Mills mall.

She assures him it is and off he goes to gather up inexpensive goodies, such as the air freshener already in his shopping basket.

The stores, which offer a hodgepodge of products, are owned by companies that buy merchandise at discounted prices.

"The merchandise comes from things like closeouts or manufacturers' overproductions," says Gary Kastel, spokesman for Value Merchants, which is based in Milwaukee and owns Everything's a Dollar in Towson Town Center.

"We do not buy damaged goods at all," he says.

Ohio-based Consolidated Stores owns two All for One stores in Maryland, including the Owings Mills shop. It also buys discounted merchandise, Ms. String says, although you never know what's going to be available.

"We do have some standard things such as cleaning supplies and beauty items that we will always have," she says. But beyond those items, "We don't know what we are going to get."

Dish towels, boxes of pasta salad, socks, carpet cleaner and pacifiers are just a sampling of merchandise found in the Owings Mills store on a recent day.

"I love it," says customer Katrina Boure. "You can get some really good deals every once in a while." This day she picks up crayons for her nieces and nephews and cigarette lighters for herself.

Marie and John Johnson choose small toys for their three children. "I stop in to see what they have everyday," says Mr. Johnson. "I love it. It's cheap."

One woman has a shopping cart full of toys and household items for her family. "When you've got four kids, you can't beat it," she says, while piling in items such as hair ribbons and toys.

Management at both Towson Town and Owings Mills say the stores are a welcome addition to the malls. And both managers say it is not a matter of a discount store moving into an "upscale" mall.

"We serve all income levels and try not to take ourselves as an upscale mall," says Christopher Schardt, general manager of Towson Town Center.

"I don't know what upscale is," says Samantha Ostertag, retail manager for Owings Mills mall.

"Certainly Everything's a Dollar fits a certain income level," says Mr. Schardt. "But, also, there are those with high incomes who also shop there because they like a bargain or they are looking for a gag gift or a stocking stuffer. And we haven't heard anything negative from any of the other merchants."

The decision to let All For One open in the Owings Mills mall was a wise one," says Ms. Ostertag. "People, these days, are value conscious. It is a very popular store," she says.

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