Just because the discount-store chain has become the norm for many Torontonians doesn’t mean it’s still not a strange place to shop.
No matter where you live in the GTA, you are likely near a Dollarama. From Scarborough and East York to Parkdale and Etobicoke, the can’t-miss yellow-and-green signs burn like beacons, offering unbeatable deals on party favours, children’s games, dish scrubbers, ziplock bags, tea towels, spiral notebooks, and sweet/savoury snacks.
Increasingly—and doubtless in sync with the condo boom—Dollaramas are emerging in the city centre. Witness brand-new or recent openings at the Galleria Mall at Dupont and Dufferin, plus Bathurst and Bloor (in the former Sonic Boom location), Woodbine and Danforth, and Front and Sherbourne, among others.
This is good news. Unfailingly crappy candles notwithstanding, Dollaramas offer excellent value on the sorts of things no one should spend a fortune on (i.e.,: St. Patrick’s Day or Halloween decorations) while offering low- or fixed-income shoppers access to essential items (like kitchen wares, pet supplies, toys, and toiletries) that can quickly add up at conventional retailers.
Still, there are some distinctly comic aspects to visiting these stores: Viewing items that flirt with copyright infringement, for instance, or food products by manufacturers you’ve never, ever heard of. And then there are those head-scratcher items that don’t seem to speak to any rational need or desire… and yet there they sit in proud abundance in store after store.
With tongue firmly planted in cheek, we surveyed a mix of new and established Dollaramas citywide in search of weirdness. And boy, did we find it.
Location: Front at Sherbourne (#SLM)
Overall tidiness: Spotless (including the public washroom).
Consistency check: What’s stocked 10 paces down the third aisle to the left of the entrance on the right? Women’s clothing and accessories, including scarves, tights and sports tops.
Weirdest meat product: Elite brand canned Vienna Sausage in Chicken Broth.
It looks like…: Febreze fabric refresher, but instead it’s… Jazzee Fabric Refresher.
Who would actually buy…: Plastic Solar Driveway Stakes? Are there a lot of under-illuminated residential driveways at Front and Sherbourne?
Location: Bathurst and Bloor (#ANX)
Overall tidiness: Commendable.
Consistency check: What’s stocked 10 paces down the third aisle to the left of the entrance on the right? Aluminum cooking pans and electric stove burner liners.
Weirdest meat product: Beaver brand Whole Smoked Scallops in Oil.
It looks like…: Skippy Peanut Butter but instead it’s… Dippy Peanut Butter.
Who would actually buy…: A hollow ceramic bootie with fluff around the ankle? It’s too narrow to be a candy dish, too shallow to be a vase… so you’re just supposed to look at it? With what, continued astonishment that a tchotchke could be this ugly?
Location: Coxwell and Gerrard (#LTI)
Overall tidiness: Not too bad.
Consistency check: What’s stocked 10 paces down the third aisle to the left of the entrance on the right? Halloween costumes and paraphernalia.
Weirdest meat product: Gourmet brand snails/escargots in a can.
It looks like…: Garnier Fructis Conditioner, but instead it’s… Fabulous Fruit Conditioner.
Who would actually buy…: A Solar Powered Dancing Flower? Because nobody wants to be the reckless environmental hog buying electric-powered plastic dancing flowers.
Location: Queen West and Dunn (#PRK)
Overall tidiness: Surprisingly nice.
Consistency check: What’s stocked 10 paces down the third aisle to the left of the entrance on the right? Small storage bins.
Weirdest meat product: Sea Chef Calamari Pieces in American Sauce. (We have no idea what “American Sauce” is, either.)
It looks like…: Softsoap Liquid Hand Soap, but instead it’s… Spa Soap Liquid Hand Soap.
Who would actually buy…: The Cadbury Crunchie Twin Fondue Gift Set? For when a Single Cadbury Crunchie Fondue Gift Set just won’t cut it?
Location: Woodbine and Danforth (#DAN)
Overall tidiness: Not so much—the floors could use mopping.
Consistency check: What’s stocked 10 paces down the third aisle to the left of the entrance on the right? Kit Kat Bites and other snack-sized sweet treats.
Weirdest meat product: A tie between Paris Pate Liver and Sea Chef Squid Pieces in Vegetable Oil.
It looks like…: Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Body Wash but instead it’s… Natural Concepts Oatmeal Body Wash.
Who would actually buy…: The Happy Birthday Balloon Weight? Evidently, hockey pucks occasionally need to attend parties deep undercover as hideous “balloon weights.”