I noticed an ad in the paper the other day for a new store to the Charlotte area called Ollie's Bargain Outlet. Never one to pass up an opportunity to score a bargain, and because I’m apparently going a little nuts with my wife gone this week, I decided to check the store out today while my daughter was in pre-school.
The new store is located at 2308 Matthews Township Parkway, which involved a lengthy drive down Independence and at least 500 stoplights from uptown. By the time I got to the store I was, admittedly, in a poor mood.
I did minimal research before heading out, so I knew a little of what to expect- nothing fancy, no ambiance, just aisles and aisles of closeout, surplus, and salvage stuff. And that’s exactly what the store was like- kind of a supersized Big Lots. They had everything from books, to toys, to flooring, to paint, to tools, to OTC medicine- you name it, this store probably had at least an off-brand of it.
In spite of the warnings on the newspaper circular that the store wouldn’t be fancy, I felt that it did have more character than I would expect from your typical closeout store. The staff was friendly, the posted signs kind of humorous (the arrow to the “complaint department” points to the exit door), and everything was clean (which I would expect considering the store hasn’t been open all that long).
I don’t know if I happened to hit senior day, or if there is some kind of retirement home close by, but I swear the most frustrating part of my shopping experience was navigating around the narrowish aisles while avoiding being hit by a massively disproportionate number of wayward, senior-piloted shopping carts. It really was comical how every stereotype we have about the diminished driving abilities of our elders was embodied and displayed with a shopping cart in the aisles of the store. Can’t really hold that against Ollie’s but it definitely made shopping a bit more of a challenge than I’m used to.
I couldn’t leave empty handed (and wanted to experience the checkout process) so I scored a great deal on some of those “Space Bags” you see on TV- something I’d wanted to try out for a while now (they work!), and an Eeyore stuffed animal for my daughter. Checking out was a breeze- for me. The long lines ahead of me appeared to have been caused by folks writing checks and trying to use American Express cards, but again, I don’t think that was a reflection on Ollie’s.
Ultimately I think that I’m maybe not really meant for closeout shopping. While the store has a little of everything, their stock constantly rotates so you wouldn’t want to go there looking for something in particular, if that makes sense. This bothers me- I would rather go to a store, get what I need from a selection of different manufacturers, and get the heck out- especially considering the distance from my home I don’t see too many times that I would wake up and think I need to fight Independence to go out there.
Still, if I lived in that area I'd probably go back, but wearing shin guards and a flashing attention light.