Dollar Counts Store Makes Name for Self in Natomas


Margaret Dennis assists customers at her south Natomas dollar store. / Photo: M. Laver

THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz

In a corner of the shopping center on West El Camino sits the family-owned and operated Dollar Counts store.

Margaret Dennis opened the store in December 2012, and she can be found there most days from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Filling in on weekends and some weekdays is her daughter Nai-Muh Dennis.

“We get stuff by recommendation,” said the younger Dennis, who was staffing the store on a busy Monday while the elder Dennis was away on a purchasing excursion. “When someone recommends something, it’s a whole bunch of people collaborating. . . That’s why it’s a little bit eclectic.”

On a regular day, customers wander in looking for everything from tiny dog sweaters to art supplies, batteries or laundry products. The tidy aisles carry items ranging in cost cost from $.50 to a $20 toy helicopter.

Customer Mark Johnson said he comes to the store for the selection and price and because he prefers to shop at local, small businesses.

“There’s always some interesting conversations going on in here,” he said.

Johnson, like many customers who shop at Dollar Counts, lives in the south Natomas area.

The Dennis family has carved out a niche in a busy shopping center anchored by Bel Air thanks to their personalized customer service. Some customers are greeted with hugs or questions about spouses or children’s graduation parties.

The owners make it a point to get to know each customer.

“Why not get to know a person. You never know how you can impact them or they can impact you. I think it’s going back to that basic thing of communication . . . and I think that’s what makes a lot of people return here,” the younger Dennis said.

Margaret Dennis does a good job at remembering the names of the customers, including one who drives down from Placerville every three months. She’ll chat about children and work with regulars and offer a much-needed hug or words of condolence, if necessary.

Regulars are known to frequent the store on the same day each week. Some, the younger Dennis said, stop by for the conversation even when they don’t have any purchases to make.

“That’s okay, just stop by and say ‘hi’,” she said.

Margaret Dennis says that it is her job to ask if the customer was looking for something not in the store.

“Give me four weeks. I do go shopping every month,” she said. When customers make requests, and a phone number is left, Dennis will phone the customer when the item is in stock.

The shopping atmosphere at Dollar Counts is casual and has the feeling of an old-fashioned five-and-dime store.

The Dennis’ commitment to their customers began before the store opened. Margaret Dennis asked potential customers what they wanted the store to carry and how they would like to see the store set up. Many of her homeless customers, for example, asked for bicycle accessories, inner tubes and repair kits.

“I want to make this south Natomas business the best in Sacramento,” she said.

Dollar Counts Inc. is located at 1500 West El Camino Avenue, in Suite 10. (916) 927-2036.


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