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Every Penny Counts
From Nowy Dziennik
August 14, 2002.

By Bozena Chojnacka

Poles in Greenpoint have different views when it comes to shopping at 99-cent stores. There are some who visit them every day, claiming there is no reason to shop at other places when one can buy the same item at a much lower price. And there are those who don’t support businesses of this kind and consider them to be "trashy." However, one thing is sure: 99-cent stores are a paradise for the newcomers, who count every single penny they spend.

The 99-cent stores are usually owned by Arabs. The rich come to buy hangers or garbage bags; the not so rich - food and cosmetics. "Nowy Dziennik" visited a number of 99 cent stores located on Manhattan Avenue, the main commercial strip in Greenpoint. The aisles are so small that the merchandise is often found outside the store. It’s not difficult to stumble upon boxes filled with juice bottles or rolls of carpet standing by the entrance. But the lack of order generally doesn’t discourage people from shopping at these stores, where items on sale can cost as little as 79 or 59 cents.

King, a new 99-cent store has just opened. The shelves are packed and the racks are filled to the ceiling. Malgorzata Perkowska, a 20 year-old college student who works at King, says that people most often buy toiletries, canned food and ornaments, but very often they bring back what they had purchased, having realized the expiration date on a product has passed, or some appliance they bought does not work. But in spite of all this, she says, 99 cents stores are needed. "Just because I buy juice at some other store, doesn’t mean that it is good. It may have expired as well," she says.

Tourists often make up the majority of the clientele during the summer. Jolanta Dabrowska, who came to the Unites States a month and a half ago, shops at 99 cents stores every day. "I come here to grab soap, or a bottle of water or some candy," she says. On the other hand, Kamila Marusa, who has been living in Greenpoint for 32 years, says she never buys food products at such stores. She comes here only to buy plastic cups or other utensils.

Malgorzata Zak always buys Kubus (juice imported from Poland), which at King is 50 cents cheaper than elsewhere. The same applies to other Polish products, including puddings, jelly and soups, which cost more than a dollar at other stores.

The owner of King says that the store is his second business in Greenpoint. He admits that the profits have gone down after September 11, but nevertheless his business is still flourishing. The owners of other 99 cents stores share similar views. "We are living in uncertain time. People spend money with a much greater reluctance now. They try to save as much as possible and so they buy cheap products that are sold only at such stores as mine," says Bassam Koran, a Palestinian who owns another 99 cents store in Greenpoint.

Translated from Polish by Joanna Sufin

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