"It looks like they're giving away Super Bowl tickets here" was the way that former Pittsburgh Steeler Robin Cole described a long line of over 200 customers that stood outside of in the Brownsville Plaza in Baldwin Borough on Thursday.
Actually, it was free groceries, as the first 200 Bottom Dollar customers received a complimentary bag of them that morning. The doors opened at 8 a.m., but some shoppers arrived as early as 4:30 that day.
Cole was joined by members of Bottom Dollar's management team and other employees, as well as by Councilman Larry Brown and representatives of Paramount Development Corporation—which owns the plaza—for a ribbon-cutting ceremony that morning.
Councilman Brown had the honor of cutting the ribbon, and Cole stayed until 9 to sign autographs.
Representatives of the and the Baldwin Food Pantry were also on hand to accept donations of $500 each from Bottom Dollar to the food pantry, the and and elementary schools. (Brown accepted for the library.)
Bottom Dollar came off as clean, organized and affordable on Thursday. Lines were long, and traffic was dense, but that could be expected on an opening day, especially with a giveaway and celebrity autographs.
The bags of food given away—each filled with pancake/waffle mix, iced oatmeal cookies, cheese curls, potato chips, paper towels, root beer, bread and syrup—represented the only kind of free bags available for shoppers. Bottom Dollar does not provide plastic bags—only leftover cardboard boxes, when available—but does sell resuable bags.
Baldwin Borough location Manager Marla Bredniak, of Washington, PA, was happy to get started on Thursday.
"It's awesome," Bredniak said. "We're so excited. I spent 20 years with a previous company. I found out Bottom Dollar was coming, and I was so excited that I just came over here."
Bredniak spoke about the monetary donations that Bottom Dollar made that morning to local non-profit groups.
"We're here for the community. We're here for the customers. We're here for the people who live here."
Bredniak said that her store employs about 60 people but that 80 Bottom Dollar representatives were there on Thursday to help with the grand opening. She said that all 60 of the Baldwin store's employees live within 10 miles of the store, including Joyce Olszewski, a lifelong Baldwin Borough resident a 1972 graduate of .
Olszewski said that she was left unemployed after working for 23 years at the nearby Laurel Learning Center on Route 51 in when that place closed. She was relieved to be hired by Bottom Dollar and now works as a part-time accounts analyst for the Baldwin store. She also helped to direct customer traffic on Thursday.
Bredniak was asked if she thought that her store could co-exist with a nearby in the Curry Hollow Shopping Center.
"I hope so," she said, "but I think we'll give them a run for their money."
At least one store in the Brownsville Plaza lost money on Thursday. Lenny Sargo, the owner of , had to close for the day due to a lack of parking. Sargo was frustrated but expected that his shop will have more parking available after Bottom Dollar's opening day.
Dave Ball, the owner of , spoke similarly when asked about having new neighbors.
"I think it's fantastic," Ball said. "I really do. That's not the problem. The problem is that it's (the parking lot's) so overwhelmed right now that the people (stores) that have been here—now, we're losing money. There's no parking.
"But as far as having neighbor, I think it's wonderful. I've been waiting for this. It's gonna help business a lot. This neighborhood was dying for a new store. It really was. Other stores were going downhill, but it seems like the landlord here (Paramount) did everything right, from remodeling to (fixing) the parking lot.
"They're very nice to us, but there should have been a guard down here. If you look at this side of the (plaza), there's no business. I make donuts, but there's no parking spaces."
Added Sargo, "We need the (new) business, and it's going to be good for the community. But the initial day's going to be rough for everybody.
"We'll get by. We always do. We're Baldwin."
Bottom Dollar sits at the intersection of Brownsville Road and Knoedler Road—the site of the old Bradley House of Catering in south Baldwin (Pittsburgh, PA 15236).
HOURS: Mondays-Saturdays, 8 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sundays, 8 a.m.-9 p.m.