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Downtown dollar stores come and go in Easthampton

A Family Dollar store opened in the Union Street plaza Aug. 16, filling the large storefront that has been vacant since Movie Gallery closed in 2010.

The 9,000-square-foot store is one of over 7,000 in the nationwide chain, which sells items including food, household items and clothes, most for under $10.

It is just a few blocks from the former location of Easthampton Dollar, a family-owned dollar store that closed last week due largely to the competition from the new store, an owner said.

The new store employs between eight and 10 people, said Bryn Winburn, public relations manager for Family Dollar, Inc.

“We have been pleased with the community’s reaction to our store and we are pleased to be a part of the Easthampton community,” Winburn said. “It seems area residents are excited to have a neighborhood Family Dollar.”

She said the company’s buying power allows it to purchase first-run merchandise at low prices, and sell it at rates lower than drug or grocery stores.

“We believe there has been a structural change to the U.S. population as a result of the great recession, and people now view the way they spend money much differently,” she said. “It’s in vogue to save money, and save money on the products you buy every day.”

Easthampton Dollar co-owner Neil Domina said that soon after Family Dollar opened, his family decided it was time to close rather than fighting the inevitable.

“For a small business like ours, losing even a small number of customers is a big deal... It’s impossible for us to compete with that kind of buying power,” he said. “We’ve been here for five years, that’s a good run.”

He added that over the years, it has been getting harder to cover the costs of doing business. He said that while other stores are able to raise prices to cover increasing overhead costs, “true dollar stores,” where everything is priced at $1, cannot.

He said his family is not bitter about closing. “When we first opened, we did it because we thought it was something the town needed,” he said. “I think we were able to help a lot of people with their budgets and to make ends meet.”

Tale of two bears

Two bears decorated by local artists for Bear Fest 2012 were donated to city, where officials say they will be available for homeowners or businesses with highly visibility to temporarily display them.

Kevin Maloney, who splits his time between homes in Easthampton and northern Virginia, donated the bears he purchased at the Sept. 20 fundraising auction that was the culmination of the summer-long Bear Fest exhibit.

He purchased “Artist Bear,” created by his wife, Juli Kirk, for $800, and “Dia Del Oso Muerto,” by Lyell Castonguay and Carand Burnet, for $775.

“Artist Bear,” now located at the Old Town Hall at 43 Main St., holds a painting, paint brushes and a palette. The Day of the Dead-inspired bear, decorated in traditional Mexican style, is standing in Pulaski Park in the Main Street rotary.

Maloney said he likes the plan to keep them visible around town. “I think it’s a great idea,” he said. “It’s a wonderful event.”

Mayor Michael A. Tautznik said the donation allows city officials to bring to life an idea they had been discussing that would make a bear available for people to display. Easthampton City Arts Plus Coordinator Burns Maxey said she and other city officials are still hammering out how the bears’ homes will be selected and what the requirements for hosting a bear will be. They may be in one place for a month at a time, or for a whole season, she said.

Veteran’s dinner

The town’s veterans and anyone wishing to honor past or present servicemen and women are invited to a Veterans’ Celebration Dinner on Nov. 10 at 5:30 p.m.

The roast beef dinner, which takes place at the First Congregational Church of Southampton, was organized by Richard LeClerc, commander of American Legion Post 168 and sponsored by the group Thankful Citizens.

The event will also feature raffles, door prizes and patriotic entertainment.

Reservations are required by Nov. 3. To reserve a seat, contact Nancy Hughes at (413) 527-4878.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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