The dollar is still almighty at Spend-A-Buck

August 09, 2004|JOHN T. DAVIS

Jim Marcinek has managed to buck a trend - the declining value of the dollar.

"Gas, stamps, everything has gone up, but our prices have remained the same," said Marcinek, owner of Spend-A-Buck in Danville Manor Shopping Center.

Everything in the store (with the exception of a few "request" items behind the counter) still sells for a dollar or less, just as Marcinek envisioned when he opened the store 11 years ago, named it after 1985 Kentucky Derby winner Spend a Buck and adopted the motto: "Where your dollar always finishes first."

In fact, Marcinek said, the quality of items has actually improved during that time while the price has remained the same.


Marcinek holds up a picture frame as an example of what he's talking about. "These frames used to be plastic. Now we can get wood and even leather ones," he said.

Marcinek runs the store with childhood friend Mason Ballard, who keeps up a friendly banter with customers from his post behind the cash register. Marcinek said Ballard does a good job of listening to and "cutting up" with customers.

Many of the items in the store carry retail pricetags that are way above a dollar that were placed there by the manufacturer or distributor. For that reason, Ballard said, he is continually asked by customers how much the items cost and continually has to remind them that everything in the store is a dollar.

"They just don't want to believe it," he said.

It's own king of layaway plan

Another often-asked question is whether the store has a layaway program. Ballard's reply to customers: "You take it home and lay it away."

Like most retailers, Marcinek and Ballard focus on customer service and creating a friendly atmosphere for shoppers.

"People don't really spend money," Marcinek said. "They spend time with you.

"The whole philosophy of our store is that if you can spend a dollar, you can spend a hundred or a thousand.

"The most important thing is to give your customers time ... If you come in here, you're going to buy something because it's only a dollar."

They have customers who ask that they be called every time a new shipment of certain items, such as artificial flowers, comes in, and those customers get called, even though the item they are buying only costs a dollar. "You won't find many stores who will call a customer to sell them something for a dollar," Ballard said.

The store's philosophy, Marcinek said, is that they "have to earn somebody's business each and every day."

New merchandise constantly provided

Another focus for Marcinek and Ballard is constantly providing new merchandise. The variety of merchandise in the store is so wide that it is basically indescribable other than to say that the store is jam-packed with stuff. Marcinek said that this month he has an inventory of about 220,000 items in the store's 2,200 square feet of retail space. The key to success, he said, is making sure that inventory doesn't gather dust.

"We want a two-week turnaround," Marcinek said. "If we don't sell it in two weeks, we're not going to buy any more of it."

The constant change in much of the store's merchandise can be a bit disconcerting to customers who return to buy something they saw on a previous visit and find out it's no longer there.

"We tell them they should have bought it when they saw it," Marcinek said. "We're a little store. We don't like to sell the same thing over and over.

"If we did, we'd be the same old store. The first thing customers would be asking is 'what have you got new?'

"We try to do one thing and do it right," Marcinek said. "Our one thing is selling it for a dollar and getting it out of here."

Keeping the store fresh is a big job for a small staff which includes only Marcinek, Ballard and Karen Mitchell. Marcinek, who has a degree in accounting and worked for a while in the Cincinnati office of a major accounting firm, said he and Ballard shop for the Danville market when they go on buying trips, and they buy what their customers ask for. "Roosters, right now, are probably our number one item."

Marcinek and Ballard, who were childhood friends growing up in the same neighborhood in Lexington, are thrifty people like their customers.

"You can spend your money carefully or you can throw it in the air," said Ballard, who works as an exterminator on his day off from the store and understands how hard some people have to work for their money.

Thriftiness comes from growing up in large family

Marcinek said his thriftiness comes from growing up in a large family.

"I was one of eight children," he said. "We didn't go to McDonald's. We might go to KFC when we were on a trip.

"We are spoiled now when it comes to money and how we spend it. People spend money they don't have," Marcinek said, adding that the store doesn't take credit cards because of the fees charged by the banks.

Central Kentucky News Articles