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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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!
(Okay, just kidding on that last bit. Really, just a joke! I think the fumes have finally affected me…)
Do you have any quirky shops like this one on your rock?
Want to stay connected to the Land of Coconuts?
We'll send you island mail, fresh from the tropics each week.