The line was long, and so was the wait at the 99 Cent Only Store's grand opening in Signal Hill Thursday.

Lines, which began forming Tuesday, were filled with customers eagerly awaiting the 99-cent television sold as a promotion to the first nine people. Several other items, including scooters and iPod speakers, were sold at the heavily discounted price to the first 99 customers.

"I shop at the 99 Cent Store all the time," said Long Beach resident Tawiana Davis. "If it wasn't for this store, I don't think we'd eat half the time."

The new business near Willow Street and Cherry Avenue was a welcome addition in the city, said Councilman Larry Forester.

The new 99 Cent Only Store in Signal Hill is approximately 23,700 gross square feet,  featuring a perishable food department, including produce, dairy and
The new 99 Cent Only Store in Signal Hill is approximately 23,700 gross square feet, featuring a perishable food department, including produce, dairy and frozen foods. (Brittany Murray / Staff Photographer)

"It's bringing in people and it's bringing in sales tax revenue, which is obviously, for a city that operates 70 percent of our general fund on sales tax - it's critical," he said.

The store also hired about 55 Signal Hill residents, said Tony Yera, vice president of 99 Cent Only Stores, except in Texas.

"Not only are we adding revenue to the city, but we're adding jobs - something that's very important for every community," he said.

The chain, which has 311 stores in four states - Arizona, Nevada, California and Texas - plans to open 35 more stores next year and 500 over the next five years, said Mike Kvitko, chief merchandising officer.

"The dollar store industry has enjoyed explosive growth," he said.


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"While all of the dollar stores have been doing very well, 99 actually does better than all the others because we offer a better selection of things you need everyday - things you need to take care of your family."

A fairly new addition to the store: daily shipments of fresh produce, a big plus for regulars.

"I'm happy they have a lot of fresh vegetables and fruit and they have a lot of things you can make a meal with," Davis said. "A lot of people don't think there's a lot of things in there they need, but if they go in there, they'll find a number of things you use all the time."

In today's economy, 99 Cent Only Stores have become a necessity for many, Kvitko said.

"We do good in good times and bad, but in bad times people need us more," he said. "We are full of things you need. We're full of things you want, too, but most of our business is from things that you need."

pam.hale@presstelegram.com, 562-499-1476 Follow Pamela Hale-Burns on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PamelaHaleBurns