10 "treasures" from Chinatown dollar stores
Shopping in Chinatown is about dim sum — and then some. There's a lot more on offer than just dumplings and bedazzled Hello Kitty iPhone cases.The neighbourhood is actually a magic wonderland of incredible items, most of which cost $10 or less. A short trip to the spangley enclave can solve virtually any shopping need, with the added bonus of making it possible to avoid the Walmarts and Dollaramas of the world.
Nestled between the area's many fruit stands and restaurants, there are shops specializing in everything at once. From cookware to underwear, there's array of items is, in a word, dazzling. So much so that any attempt at an overview would have to be virtually encyclopedic. Let's not do that. Instead allow me to share 10 random discoveries from last visit to the dollar stores of Chinatown.
Panties (with extras!)
Pocketed panties. Panties with pockets. The ultimate in stealth undergarments for only $1.50. Use it for keys! Condoms! Contraband! Coins! Whatever! Available at Chinatown Dollar Mart, 490 Dundas St W.
Fresh durians can be had for a mere $5.99. Beware though — these hedgehoggy fruits smell like death. They smell so bad, in fact, that they've been outlawed from public transit in Singapore. (You may want to avoid indulging on the TTC.) Available at Lily Fruits Market, 300 Spadina Ave.
Pretty paper. Use it to wrap a gift, and the recipient can recycle it into wall art. This stuff is far cheaper than what you'll find at The Paper Place and other similar shops. Available at B&J Trading, 378 Spadina Ave.
This is the place to go if you need copious amounts of incense sticks for very little money (read: a few dollars). Potheads, yogis, New Age types, take note! Available at Chinatown Dollar Mart, 490 Dundas St W.
These Japanese dolls are painfully adorable. That is all. Available at B&J Trading, 378 Spadina Ave.
Available in either stripey-shiny or floral-shiny, there are hula hoops aplenty in this little shop just east of Spadina. Hooping is a summer staple activity, especially in the park (they also make great fort frames, just FYI). Available at Chinatown Dollar Mart, 490 Dundas St W.
Amazingly tiny bottles. Tiny. Amazing. Starting at $0.59. Make a necklace! Insert a miniscule message! The possibilities are endless. Available at B&J Trading, 378 Spadina Ave.
Neon + snarling wild animals = optimally ferocious T-shirt. And there's plenty more like this to choose from. Available at S&H T's Inc., 380 Spadina Ave.
You can spread the zen in a multitude of colours by purchasing a porcelain Buddha head. Not to mention the lanterns. Available at B&J Trading, 378 Spadina Ave.
This backpack is the kind of thing Urban Outfitters consistently tries to rip off, but is actually authentic (and at a fraction of the cost). Available at B&J Trading, 378 Spadina Ave.
Got a Chinatown dollar store find to share? Let us know in the comments.
Writing and photography by Sarah Ratchford