The owners of the new Dollar Daze store off West Wedington Drive in Fayetteville quit their jobs in the health care field and are trying to live their American dream amid a lukewarm economy.
Sharon and Bob Howell wanted to make a change in their life and have risked it all for a dollar. Originally from Massachusetts, the couple picked Fayetteville from a Google search.
“We googled towns and cities where it was nice to raise a family and the economy was doing well,” said Sharon Howell.
She was a certified nurse assistant for 16 years and Bob was a surgical technologist for 20 years at a Level 1 trauma center at the University of Massachusetts Hospital.
“Nothing good happens there. Everyone comes in 24-hours-a-day and is trying to die on you. You are covered with blood and it is a high-stress situation,” said Bob Howell.
While stress was a factor, a traumatic event in Bob’s own life was a key catalyst that prompted the move. Howell said his oldest son, Bobby was brought into the same trauma center where he worked and died.
“I had enough. My 23-year old died. It was hard for me to return to work. I felt like I needed a change,” he said.
So the couple headed to the Internet to search for promising business ideas and a new place to call home. Sharon Howell said they wanted nothing to do with hospitals or nursing homes and said owning a dollar store just “popped out." It was Sharon who came up with the name, “Dollar Daze.”
“I didn’t want to spell it like d-a-y-s. I wanted it to be like you were in a daze. I liked dollar stores. We just have so much stuff,” she said.
After deciding on the perfect business venture the couple had to whittle down a short list of possible sites and best places to relocate. They once again headed to the Internet in search of the right city and a new place to live. The family came south for a scouting trip in March.
Sharon Howell says everything fell into place. They loved the area, the people and especially, the warmer weather.
The couple and their 7-year-old-twin girls Ta-Rayah and Je-Naiya packed-up their family cars with clothes found an apartment on Craigslist eager to embark upon new beginnings.
“We didn’t know a single soul,” Sharon Howell said.
It took the couple five months to get the store open with thousands of items in 25 categories.
Dollar Daze is located in a strip mall with a Harp’s grocery store as the anchor and Walmart Neighborhood Market across the street. But the big names as neighbors don’t scare this tough native New England couple.
“There is no store of this nature on this side of town,” she said, “We don’t have the same items.”
Sharon adds that more stores bring out more shoppers, which are all potential customers for Dollar Daze.
Bob and Sharon routinely scour the Internet to find items they can sell for a dollar. They use up to 60 distributors across the country.
“We want a quality product where we can make a few cents profit. The other dollar stores call themselves dollar stores but sell items for more than a dollar. We are committed to keeping things just one dollar,” Bob Howell said.
The couple agrees it’s been fun learning a new business and trying to estimate what people really need. The jewelry, make-up and cleaning products fly off the shelves, according to Sharon Howell. Then, there are the buying surprises.
“I had 40 train whistles in one shipment and one customer saw them and bought all 40 of them. I have no idea what he was doing but that was a surprise,” Bob Howell said.
Despite the long days the couple is committed to the new business.
“I’m here some days for 12 hours but it doesn’t feel like working,” he said.
“We aren’t a franchise. We are free to do whatever we want in here and it’s been wonderful,” she said.
The couple has two employees and hopes to increase to four before the holidays.
“We are happy and the people of Arkansas have been awesome,” the Howells agreed, adding that starting their own business has been a dream come true.