By no means an exhaustive list, here are five stores for the short-on-change to be familiar with in the Vancouver area:
Dressew Supply - 337 West Hastings (between Homer and Hamilton). This is the store for anyone with a creative streak, even those that don't sew. The notions and craft supplies can be dirt cheap (for example, less than a dollar for more pipe cleaners than you could ever hope to use up in every colour and style known to man; 25 cents for stuffed animal 'safety eyes' (though only the green colour is left); 25 cents for a dual pack of lingerie-sized elastic ribbon; $1.99 for every skein of wool, acrylic, and cotton yarn; and the biggest selection of buttons (stored in tubes) you'll ever see at 10 cents each), and they have all sorts of bizarre odds and ends like plastic doll heads, doll house furniture, bags of remnant trims, mushroom-based bird ornaments, and new ski clothes from the 1980's (I kid you not). On the more practical side, if you need knitting needles, crochet hooks and all the accessories inbetween, look no further (but do stop by YokoYaya 1-2-3 as well). There are literally miles of zippers of all varieties and all colours, sequinned trims and appliques galore, and bargain basement fabric as well (in some wild, funky patterns). Take the afternoon to explore this dual floor monstrosity, and get there quick for Hallowe'en goods (huge selection of wigs, hats and props, but they go fast!). Not the nicest of neighbourhoods to be sure; when I took the above photos yesterday afternoon, a man was urinating on one of the trees outside the shop . . . with his pants around his ankles. It's always an adventure shopping at Dressew, both inside the store and out!
YokoYaya 1-2-3 - first floor of the International Village Mall (88 West Pender) at Tinseltown, near the Stadium/Chinatown SkyTrain station. I must admit that I chickened out taking more photos of YokoYaya, and it's because of a large sign asking patrons not to photograph inside the store. I know why that sign is there - there are some of the funniest misuses of English that you'll ever read scattered throughout the store. My friend Chantal just purchased a mug from Daiso (YokoYaya's parent store, located in Richmond) that reads "Love means never having to say you are sorry." But can you see the potential here? A misquote like that could make a hilarious gift for the right recipient! Besides the amusing 'Engrish', YokoYaya has some really affordable practical items, particularly kitchen utensils, Japanese ceramic tableware, stationery, and home organizion gadgets (computer cable tidies, over-door hooks, suction-cup bathroom and sink accessories, etc). They sell false eyelashes for $2 a pair that you'd normally have to fork out $15 for at Shopper's for Hallowe'en, those great stretchy plastic transparent hair elastics in an array of colours for $2 a set (compare to $5 from a drug store), nail polish and tweezers all for $2. I always buy the socks ($2 a pair - get the ankle socks that have a thicker layer on the sole), the onzen (hot springs) styled bath salts, and the $2 umbrellas. I bought one of the clear umbrellas with white polka dots yesterday (PVC free!) and then left it somewhere amongst the shoes at Army and Navy. Didn't even take a picture of it first. Sigh. YokoYaya also sells my favourite crochet hooks (aluminum, powder-coated in a gold colour) and has bamboo knitting needles as well. Kawaii! This is where you want to go for stocking stuffers come Christmas - be sure to take a look at the cola-scented erasers, $2 toques, and their computer & cell phone accessories!
Army and Navy - 36 West Cordova (between Abbott and Carrall). Worst neighbourhood ever, be forewarned! I think it's good, however, to see what daily life on the DTES is like and not remain separate from it's horrors. It's all of our duty to reach out and help one another, including those marginalized here on the edge of Chinatown. So like Dressew, expect a bit of an adventure when you head out to Army & Navy, and bring a camera - this is one of the more interesting and photogenic parts of Vancouver. Army & Navy carries all sorts of cheap, discount items (clothing, shoes, grocery items, housewares, etc.). It's a great place for camping and fishing gear, and of course for its legendary shoe sales. The mossy brick pictures are from the breezeway that divides the store into two separate buildings (though connected underground by the shoe and camping departments). Cheap sweatpants and work boots & clothing are probably the best perennial deals here, but sale items can be seriously discounted. Not my favourite store by any means, but their lingerie, swimsuits and the occasional pair of shoes are some of the lowest priced items in town. Just watch the quality of what you're buying (especially the shoes and boots - yes, they're only $20, but can you walk in them?). Check out the recent flyer on their homepage before you go to help narrow your search, and be prepared to wander in Canada's poorest postal code, the DTES.
Joe Fresh Style Frais - Granville street, just north of Dunsmuir. I am really looking forward to the opening of this flagship store on October 13th! Though you can bet I won't be there for the grand opening (I don't mind crowds, but I certainly don't seek them out); I've made it a policy of mine to never be caught camped out in line for anything. But when the doors do open, I will gladly skip down to Joe to see what's on offer, hoping they've kept true to their original Superstore prices give or take 10% or so. Being a grad student, I can't afford new clothes very often, and I love the idea that Joe Mimran is making fashion accessible to broke persons such as myself! The only thing I'm not overly excited about is that nasty faux-cheetah print coat that seems to be defiling many bus stop advertisements here in Vancouver. Urgh. But cheap jeans, affordable tops and cute accessories are things I can get onboard for! If it's a total bust, then H&M is just a block away.
H&M - Pacific Centre Mall. Cheap, cheap, cheap and full of pushy bargain hunters, H&M is the place to go for everyday tops and bottoms, and also for inexpensive evening wear and accessories. While I find their website difficult to get any useful information off of, the store is easy enough to navigate in person if you don't hit rush hour. The waits for the changerooms can be painful, but you usually have arm loads of clothing to try on so it's worth the wait. It's proven to be a convenient place for me to find long and short sleeved t-shirts and blouses, but I find that a lot of the bottoms and dresses are quite picked over. It may just be one of those places that's worth getting to right as it opens - take a friend and stop for brunch afterwards (I recommend the Vancouver Art Gallery's cafe on a sunny day, White Spot on Georgia for a hot coffee and the usual eggs & hashbrown comforts, or a coffee from Blenz at the Central Library concourse just down the road - can you tell I'm not a food fair fan?). If you don't knit or crochet, here's a great place to buy toques, scarves and mittens as affordable gifts in trendy colours and styles. And I love being able to buy favourite t-shirts for $8, too.