Everything Must Go!

Videotapes! Drill presses! Toasters! Sphygmomanometers! If the Dade County Store's prices were any lower, they'd be insane!

For the Nineties Guy, the County Store presents a veritable bonanza. Somewhere out there Roger, Nino, Hector, and Martin are running around with nameless charm bracelets. Let their loss be your gain. If you prefer to make a more intellectual statement, there are always the "Poverty Sucks" and "Live, Love, Laugh" charms. And if the object of your affection is a Virgin, Betty, Lisa, or a Dannett, you're really in luck. Buy her a gold nameplate for her necklace and tell her how many car payments it set you back at Zales or Mayor's. If that doesn't do the trick, pick up a white Candice Candice fringed skirt and matching bustier top (size large) for $39, or the same outfit in black for $31. What woman could resist such lavish gift-giving?

Rings are a little trickier. The majority of the store's selection breaks down into either initials or zodiac signs; the former may prove difficult to match with the name on your new charm bracelet. A reliable alternative is to opt for the traditional Playboy bunny. You have to wonder how the guy who lost that ring is doing now that he no longer has his fine taste in finger-wear to advertise his class and sexual prowess. Just imagine the hordes of sophisticated fashion models who will flock to your side when they catch a glimpse of that elegant rabbit adorning your pinkie. And all for a pittance.

Once you've got "Poverty Sucks" on your wrist, a Virgin wrapped around your neck, and the potent sexual lure on your finger, you'll no doubt want to complete the transformation into the new swinging you with the proper scents and fragrances. Luckily, the County Store is stocked. Salsa shampoo by Raphael can be had for a paltry three dollars per eight-ounce bottle. Apräs bain, you'll want to dab on a little eau de toilette. For hommes, there's Beretta (look like Robert Blake or just smell like him)cologne by Parfums Delphes of Paris, only fifteen dollars for a 100-milliliter bottle. For women, a variety of enticing odors: Exetera, Lovely, Gianni Finzi, Rosa Bella, Sablon, Rose Rouge, and Rose Love, all for the same low fifteen bucks. Should something domestic be more to your nose's liking, Lady Stetson rides along at ten dollars for a two-ounce supply.

What outfit would be complete without the latest sexy electronic gadgetry to round out the accessories? The County Store can have you swaggering down the street in no time, a walkie-talkie ($29 to $149) strapped to one side of your belt, a Motorola beeper ($19) clipped to the other. And don't forget the radar detector ($14 and up) and the BellSouth Mobility telephone for your car. Never skimp on the status symbols.

Clinie Ford maintains a small library of guidebooks to help her price the merchandise, but it's no easy job and she admits that a savvy buyer might occasionally profit handsomely at the store's expense. There's a rumor of a rare book, for example, purchased for 25 cents and resold to a collector for more than $1000. And while Ford will test the diamonds, gold, and silver for weight and authenticity, she is often flying by the seat of her pants when she assesses their value.

"I use a lot of reference manuals," says the manager, rolling her eyes. "Sometimes I have to take a trip to JC Penney to verify things."

Ford's duties extend beyond the wall of the warehouse. She also helps with the General Services Administration's vehicle auctions A buses, garbage trucks, and so forth. The warehouse is too small to house these vehicles, but negotiations are under way to secure an adjacent lot to store heavy equipment. Meanwhile, Ford distributes flyers advertising such upcoming sales.

But while her purview may exceed the warehouse's four concrete-block walls, nothing that goes on inside escapes Ford's scrutiny. She's a benevolent dictator, and make no mistake about it A the County Store is her turf. No one who enters this domain avoids an appraising glance. When a customer who has located a $75 laser printer wants to pay with a check but can only come up with one form of ID, it is Ford who plays the heavy and nixes the transaction. Polite but firm. It's easy to see why she got that Outstanding Employee of the Fourth Quarter of 1989 plaque.

You wonder if they really ought to be offering the Diebold cannonball safe they received from the Dade tax collector. It's the old-fashioned kind, big as an NFL lineman, and it cuts an imposing figure near the door. With deals like these, they could use it to hold all the loot. And to make sure none of the proceeds become found property.

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