When You Own It, the Happiness Will Surround You

Written by: Ashley

 

Island shopping often falls under the category of scavenger hunt. It can even turn into quite the adventure, depending on what you’re looking to buy. (Like the time I was led on foot by strangers through the winding back streets of Charlotte Amalie in search of an upholstery shop.)  You’ll have a special challenge if your item of want isn’t a mainstay at the Big Box Four on St. Thomas, whose products you probably have memorized given a year or two of island shopping under your belt. I can give you a row by row rundown of the main contents in every Pricesmart aisle and can whip through my shopping routine quicker than it takes to get through the checkout line.

Yet there is a store on St. Thomas whose contents I could only hope to memorize after working there for several years. It’s a place that never fails to amuse, bemuse, and astound me all at once. I will refer to this one-of-a-kind retail experience as Dolla N’ Dash. Weaving through its many narrow, cluttered aisles feels a bit like shopping within an eerily vivid dream. Or like stepping into a John Waters or David Lynch movie, the kind that’s fantastical yet unnerving, depicting an angular version of mundane reality. And, while I’m hesitant to beat a dead unicorn with this oft-used and extremely apt analogy, I must say it’s another place in the VI that makes me feel like Ashley in Wonderland.

Dolla n’ Dash is a cavernous, shape-shifting warehouse of a store out by the mall. I find it’s best experienced directly after herbal consumption. Which was my state upon first glimpse, not long after landing on the rock. Eternally attracted to all things colorful and shiny, I found myself entranced by several containers placed outside the entrance that overflowed with what looked to be fake flora and produce in extensive, and sometimes sparkly, varieties. Next to the impossibly bright, waxy fruit and flowers was a container of large area rugs rolled up and pointed skyward, which was next to some cases of Fabuloso and Clorox. Sidewalk enticements to draw in shoppers. It worked for me.

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Not gonna lie. I kinda want a room full of these.

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A bowl of plastic lettuce and cauliflower will look PERFECT on the dining room table!

 

 

 

 

Inside, I was dumbfounded by the vast variety of items stocked inside this stuffy, dimly-lit space. An emporium of gaudy delights presented itself to me. Anything you could possibly hope to purchase at Kmart is available at Dolla n’ Dash. And in greater quantity and larger variety. Albeit, with far less of the fluorescent big box retail experience that has become therapeutic to so many of us capitalists. Also, it’s a cash only operation. Your credit limit is useless here.

But honestly, who doesn’t need a floral wastebasket with lid?

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And who doesn’t prefer having six different prints to choose from?

I haven’t actually found Dolla n’ Dash to be less expensive, even though the products feel cheaper, as does the shopping experience overall. But over the years, I’ve found it to easily win the award for most variety. And on some corners of the market, it has every other place beat, no contest. It’s the only place to buy vases, for example.

Who doesn't need a glass sword? Just in case?

Who doesn’t need a glass sword?      I mean, just in case…

Their collection of glass vases and ceramic planters is unbelievable, considering they’re usually restrictively expensive on island. Any size and shape of glass vase you could ask for is available at Dolla n’ Dash. I once scored two 4 ft. tall glass vases in the shape of champagne flutes for a fancy holiday party. And received tons of compliments from my guests! All vases are always 50% off, which makes them reasonably priced. Although why they don’t just take down the perpetual 50% off sign and price them accurately is beyond me. I saw through the psychological impact on my 2nd trip.

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Photo does not represent entire curtain selection.

 

The other thing Dolla n’ Dash wins the variety award for is curtains. Their selection is damn near unbelievable. Curtains in every color. The collection at Kmart has a decidedly Midwestern palette that hasn’t been updated in four years. But Dolla n’ Dash has a color and style of window dressing for every taste imaginable.

Perhaps as a side effect of selling absolutely everything, odd products are often lumped together.

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It makes COMPLETE sense for brake fluid to be housed next to fake fruit.

And some seem to have been on the shelf for well over a decade, if not two. For instance, just in case your tape player isn’t working properly, Dolla n’ Dash still stocks those handy head cleaners.

According to Rolling Stone, cassettes are making a comeback in some underground scenes.

Rolling Stone reports that cassettes are making a comeback in the underground.

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Is that Brooke Shields during her Gerber era?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can probably guess, most items sold at Dolla n’ Dash are made even more cheaply than the mass-produced goods Americans are accustomed to buying. A local, in-the-know friend explained to me that the products are what he calls “knock-offs” or “bootlegs” made in Southeast Asia for non-U.S. Markets. Meaning, in part, they’re without certain consumer safety precautions required for products sold in the states. This being lead paint and the like. Which explains why, when combined with a complete lack of airflow in one of the back rooms, I had to cover my olfactory organs with my shirt to keep out the poisonous plastic stench emanating from the 68 varieties of bathmat.

It also explains my most amusing discovery during this last Dolla n’ Dash trip. Many of these knockoffs have English words printed on them in stiff, vaguely accurate translations from whatever Asian language is spoken in their land of origin. I found a large, hilarious collection of housewares and toys with incongruous, awkward wording, seemingly for purposes both decorative and informative – with some deliciously ridiculous results. One of the most confusing is printed on a decorative office waste basket and says, “I am Not your Only Choice, but your Exact Choice.” Whatever it means, it sure sounds ominous. The title of this here blog post was lifted from some farm toy packaging for “the children.”

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Thanks for confirming your purpose, but shouldn’t you be Ho Ho Ho-ing?

Lucky for you, I do have a small capacity for self-editing, and thus, will only share a handful of favorites. Although, I’ll have you know, I’m finding this restraint exceedingly difficult.

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Unsure of the exact sentiment, but “Everyday Look” is printed on many items.

Island living requires resourceful, savvy shopping. Knowing just what I can find at Dolla n’ Dash that’s not available elsewhere is a great help. Plus, it can get a trifle dull on this tiny speck in the ocean. It’s nice to know that catching a buzz and going to Dolla n’ Dash will entertain for an hour or so. And you never know what necessity you may find.

Although, I recommend avoiding anything that may come into contact with your orifices or mucous membranes or those of the ones you love… Which infers that getting revenge on someone you secretly hate could, perhaps, be had by simply gifting them with some cookware made from suspect materials in factories with no safety precautions. No one ever need know. Mua-ha-ha!

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“Love is satisfied that!” Got that right.

(Okay, just kidding on that last bit. Really, just a joke! I think the fumes have finally affected me…)

 

 

 

 

 

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27 thoughts on “When You Own It, the Happiness Will Surround You

  1. I find it quite scary how excited I am at the prospect of (possibly) finding this place the next time I’m in STT….I need curtains!!! And hopefully not at $20 + a panel, either…

    • LOL Sophie, be sure to go under the influence of something – best to shop at this place un-sober. 😉 (P.S. sorry for the delayed reply – just sorted out a big issue with our comments software 😉 )

    • Hi Sophie! Can’t quite remember the pricing for the curtains…but the variety is certainly extensive, and I’m sure they’re not more expensive than KMart. Plus, if the owner is around, he might negotiate with you. I’ve seen it done, and followed suit.

  2. Oh Ashley, I hope you do more of these! Maybe a once-a-month blog about the poor, misunderstood denizens of the Dolla N Dash. Would love to know what they were supposed to say. 🙂
    Thanks for chuckles! And say Hi to STJ for me!

    • Hi Nancie! I’m so glad you enjoyed the strange translations as much as I did! Will try to finagle a way to include them in another blog. If not, maybe on Facebook. I definitely have more examples on my phone just waiting to be shared!

    • Sophie- it’s not exactly in the mall, but in that neighborhood. It’s actually called Cash n Carry and is across from Tillett Gardens. Between the Arab furniture stores (owned by the same people), near the police station known as Zone C, movie rental place and the newish pizza-serving gas station called Bonjour. Hope this helps! Bring CASH.

  3. Oh my gosh. Your hilarious observations from the “Dolla n’ Dash” have my husband and I rolling! Brilliant post! (Also, love your proper use of the plural “bathmat.”) Thank you Ms. Ashley for bringing St. Thomas, in all of its vivid color, right on back to me through your creative word-smitthing. 🙂 Perhaps you will consider a post about the Indian Items Section of Plaza Extra as a follow up?

    • Hi Jenny! Thanks so much for reading. Tickled that it resonated with you and your hubby so much! Yes- the international section at Plaza Extra is impressively extensive- could be an interesting launching point for a rant blog about how there are so many Indians on St. Thomas and NO Indian restaurants!

  4. yes Ashley!!…I nevah saw this place but it’s call me all the way to San Francisco….going there on my next trip, fo sure
    tanks,
    j

  5. I haven’t lived on St. T since 1969 (maybe 70), but your writing takes me back to the essence of it, even though much has changed. Keep writing, I love it.

  6. Wonderful article — had to post on FB for my other island friends to read. Those of us living on Tortola get so excite at the prospect of shopping at Kmart and Costs U Less. Have you ever been shopping on Tortola? There is a store called Island Department Store. Their checkout process is worth of a time lapse video because it takes soooo long. When they built the new store a few years ago we all thought they’d finally drag themselves into this century but they kept the same checkout process. If you buy a sewing machine they take it out, thread the machine and sew a piece of fabric to prove that it works. You go through the elaborate process to buy it and since they’ve proven it works you can never return it to the store. They also have some crazy things for sale too —

    • Sounds like one of my counterparts on Tortola should get going on a blog post about it! Sounds pretty much like an ISLAND department store to me. Thanks for sharing!

    • Oh my gosh, Whitney, Island Department store deserves a blog post of its own. LOL about the check-out process – I have seriously almost lost my shit there MANY times. That’s where I have to practice my deep breathing exercises. 😉

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