At some point Friday, a Dallas Morning News headline started popping up on my Facebook feed. It contained a magical four-word phrase: “Daiso Japan dollar store.” After further investigation (i.e., reading the article), I discovered (i.e., someone else discovered and I just got super excited when I found out) Daiso Japan’s grand opening celebration was Saturday. For someone who grew up with a dad traveling back and forth to Japan for a Japanese company, and with Japanese pen pals, a Japanese dollar store strikes chords of nostalgia, glee and respect for well-packaged, practical items.
After attempting to cajole friends away from their work and families, I persuaded my husband to head north with me. We arrived to a line of approximately 100 people waiting to enter the store. It was 5:50 p.m.
A friend performed with a taiko drumming group early on at the event. Apparently, Daiso kicks out not just the well-organized, useful and tasty jams, but entertaining ones too. I can’t think of a performance by local talent the last time a Dollar General opened. We missed the drumming, but as luck would have it, got to see the flailing inflated air man, and hear universally rousing tunes like Baltimora’s “Tarzan Boy” and the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling.” This company knows how to keep the dollar store enthusiasm at peak-level ... even when everyone is sweating balls outside a strip mall off the Bush Turnpike.
Fortunately for the fair-skinned, the line fed into an empty unit in the strip mall, so we weren’t standing in direct sunlight the entire time. A woman near us commented to her companion that this was nothing: Earlier in the day when she drove by, the line went all the way down the shopping strip to the access road. Another woman announced, “This is bullshit,” picked up her toddler-sized purse and headed out. (Oddly, she didn’t leave; she just went outside where there was a mild breeze.)
Thirty-five minutes later and we were in. I lost sight of my husband almost immediately. The place was packed and people were hyper-shopping. It was like a polite mosh pit with carry baskets. First, the maneki neko (lucky cats) shone like sweet little beacons (as they should). Then, we hit organizational things, school supplies and crafting.
At this point it was obvious that Daiso is a “dollar-fifty” store. The majority of things are $1.50, but whatever: It’s obscenely well-organized and there’s a metric butt-ton of stuff you need, never knew you needed, and don’t need now but will know where to go when you do.
For instance, wool for needle felting? Yeah, Daiso has it. You can get three- and four-color packs for $1.50. Replacement needles for yes, $1.50. I love my regular craft stores, but that shit is never that cheap.
At this point, I was on a high. I’d gotten good-looking wool, and was headed over to the bra-washing bags when my husband approached beaming: “I found a mini-scythe! It’s $1.50! And a compass! Oh, and check out this thermometer I’m getting for the garage. It’s in Celsius but I don’t care!”
There’s a gardening section, pet clothes, cleaning supplies, dinnerware, kitchen utensils for days, a fairly impressive beauty section (charcoal pore strips, what!). And, no, none of these departments seems unlikely or even strange for a discount store, but it’s the variety of selection within those departments that’s impressive. Also, the fact that thanks to items like facial tissues with golden retriever puppies on them, I didn’t get irritated about ramming elbows or blocked aisles. I just kept vowing to come back to see what I didn’t see this time. Like finding the easter eggs in a favorite movie, I’d find all the strange furry shoe clips (a real thing) Daiso could leave for me.
As we wound around and came to the snack section, we were treated to Pocky (biscuit sticks dipped in various coatings) and green tea samples, and so much impulse purchase opportunity; I couldn’t fit everything in my basket. Absolutely, I need to add this rice candy to a care package. Of course I’d like this waterproof gym/travel bag thing. Yes, I think we do need batteries.
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I’d also gotten so used to the odd Daiso Japan voiceovers coming through the loudspeaker, I felt less like I had been at a sales pitch, and more like I was leaving a corporate retreat ... which I realize now is super weird. But, I’m hoping for some music next time.
Finally, it was time to check out. My cashier, “CSH:00000010,” according to my receipt, wrapped all my fragile items carefully while she chatted about how she’d worked a great many grand openings all over and yet had never seen one this busy, especially this late into the day. I asked her what cities it topped, and she said, still sort of amazed as she said it, “Los Angeles, San Francisco, all of them. This is crazy.” As she gestured out the window to the line that still stood waiting to come in, another employee dropped chilled bottles of water to each cashier. I wished her luck and was off to compare purchases with my husband.
We left, sweaty and exhausted, but really happy, which is not how either of us normally feel after shopping. We’d purchased 83 items and spent a combined $129.07. The entire experience lasted an hour.
But I think I’m going to need to go back this weekend. I’ve already demolished my tomato gummy candies, and I never got to look at the socks. And part of me hopes they power up the flailing air guy outside again.