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You can tell America is facing protracted tough economic times by the remorseless creep of bad business into suburbia. Bad business is what happens when good business, okay business, and mediocre business can't pay the bills anymore. Bad businesses cater to neighborhoods with maxed out credit cards.


Here in Chicago's middle class suburbs this cycle of transformation began with the closing of regular businesses. Hardware stores, restaurants, office supply stores, and niche businesses like wig salons and dog training centers all started to close. The closings created gap-toothed desolation in the strip malls and shopping plazas.

At some point, a tipping point was reached, and the bad businesses began to fill in the gaps. In my suburb bank branches have been replaced with garish storefronts offering payday loans. Closed restaurants are now rental agencies with low monthly rates on couches, beds, and televisions. Such a service to the community! A man can get an advance on his next paycheck and use the money to rent a couch, and for this privilege he only has to pay for the couch nine or ten times over.


The vanguard of this downturn was the mega dollar stores. The dollar stores arrived innocuously and put down roots, started spreading, growing larger, metastasizing inside the dead tissue of a Circuit City or a defunct grocery store. Now they are as big as the regular stores. They have freezers and coolers and sell everything imaginable, all for a dollar or less.

Since I didn't need a payday loan and my Catholic background prevents me from renting furniture I decided to take a safari to one of these mega Dollar Stores.

I set my budget for this excursion at the modest sum of ten dollars. My goal was to familiarize myself with the full spectrum of dollar store services offered: food, beverages, entertainment, education, etc. I took this learning experience very seriously. Dollar stores are the way of the future, and in a year or two we all might be purchasing everything from a dollar store. Suburban America, this is your future, so pay attention


Gray skies over Dollar Tree. She is the only plant sustained by the death of dreams. You give up something precious the first time you pass through her doors. This was formerly a Babies "R" Us. All future babies born in my area will be dressed in foil basting pans and creepy doll clothes.


Lots of cheap reading material at Dollar Tree. Two consistent themes seem to be Bibles and dipshits. Buying the hardcover autobiography of Ted Kennedy at the Dollar Store would be a little bit like touring a cave and then buying a poster of Neil Armstrong in the gift shop.

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