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Riverside resident Kimberly Harrison places her purchases from a 99 Cents Only Store in Riverside into her vehicle on Thursday, April 11, 2024. The chain is set to close all of its 371 locations. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)
Riverside resident Kimberly Harrison places her purchases from a 99 Cents Only Store in Riverside into her vehicle on Thursday, April 11, 2024. The chain is set to close all of its 371 locations. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)
Madison HartMercedes Cannon-Tran
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Shoppers are hurrying to their local 99 Cents Only Stores for last-minute deals before they’re gone for good.

Joining fellow discount retailer , which has announced plans to close 1,000 stores nationwide over the next several years, the 99 Cents Only brand is preparing to shutter its 371 locations across California, Arizona, Nevada and Texas by June 5.

Shoppers funneled into a 99 Cents store on Arlington Avenue in Riverside on a recent afternoon, greeted by signs splayed outside the building announcing the closure and promising up to 30% discounts.

Kimberly Harrison, who lives in Riverside, exited the store with a few snacks and some cooking and décor items. She said she’s a regular shopper at another Riverside location.

“Oh, it’ll be sad,” she said of the pending closures. “It’ll be sad for the older folks; it’ll be sad for the moms who really need to shop here.”

Just behind her, another shopper rushed to her car with a box of groceries in one arm and a toddler in the other.

  • A customer leaves with a purchase at a 99 Cents...

    A customer leaves with a purchase at a 99 Cents Only Store in Riverside on Thursday, April 11, 2024. The chain is set to close its 371 locations. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Customers leave with their purchases at a 99 Cents Only...

    Customers leave with their purchases at a 99 Cents Only Store in Riverside on Thursday, April 11, 2024. The chain is set to close its 371 locations. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • A family leaves with its purchase at a 99 Cents...

    A family leaves with its purchase at a 99 Cents Only Store in Riverside on Thursday, April 11, 2024. The chain is set to close all 371 locations. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • A customer shops inside a 99 Cents Only Store in...

    A customer shops inside a 99 Cents Only Store in Riverside on Thursday, April 11, 2024. The chain is set to close all 371 of its locations. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • A customer leaves with a purchase at a 99 Cents...

    A customer leaves with a purchase at a 99 Cents Only Store in Riverside on Thursday, April 11, 2024. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Riverside resident Kimberly Harrison places her purchases from a 99...

    Riverside resident Kimberly Harrison places her purchases from a 99 Cents Only Store in Riverside into her vehicle on Thursday, April 11, 2024. The chain is set to close all of its 371 locations. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

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Local food banks say the closure of 99 Cents stores and other discount retailers will be a tough blow for those already struggling to put food on the table.

More than , defined as the inability to reliably afford or access enough food, according to data from Feeding America. In Los Angeles County, nearly , according to one USC study. Researchers say these numbers have been growing since the pandemic, due to inflation and rising poverty levels.

Those same factors impacted 99 Cents stores, company officials said.

“Unfortunately, the last several years have presented significant and lasting challenges in the retail environment, including the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic… all of which have greatly hindered the company’s ability to operate,” Mike Simoncic, 99 Cents’ interim CEO, said in an April 4 news release announcing the store closures.

The chain has operated for over 40 years. A quick search on the store’s website showed there are five stores in Riverside, six in the Pomona Valley area and about nine in the San Bernardino Valley area.

There is hope, however, for some locations to be purchased and saved by Mark Miller, CEO of Pic ‘N’ Save Bargains.

At the 99 Cents store on Arlington, Riverside couple Robert and Juanita Fernandez said they shop the store once a week.

“I stop by here and check on the produce and pick up some of my groceries here,” said Juanita Fernandez. “So, yeah, I’m sad.”

Shopper January Patterson said she was likewise sorry to see the stores go as she recently checked out deals at the Arrow Highway location in Pomona.

“Sometimes this store gets you through your tough times, like when your paycheck may be a bit short,” Patterson said. “Also, when you have kids and you are trying to put together a little dinner on a budget. For a lot of us, this store is a big stepping stone for our families.”

Dolores Bell, who lives in Pomona, said losing the store is a big deal in her community.

“This is a hard hardship for all of us. We can get things here that are too expensive to buy at other stores,” Bell said. “Don’t leave us 99!”

Shoppers can find produce and supplies at the 99 Cents stores for under a dollar, plus tax. The prices can go up, but shoppers can typically find staples such as flour for $1.99 a bag. In comparison, a bag of flour at Safeway can range from $3 to $7.

The impact of the store closures extends beyond consumers.

Tonya Johns, with People Helping People Financial Services, stopped by the Arlington Avenue store in Riverside on a recent afternoon to offer help to employees who will soon be out of work. She said she had just come from a location in Moreno Valley.

“Some employees didn’t even know the stores are closing,” Johns said.

In Los Angeles County, Supervisor Janice Hahn on April 9 requested the departments of Economic Opportunity and Consumer and Business Affairs to develop a .

Meanwhile, local food banks such as Feeding America Riverside and San Bernardino, are preparing for the store closures and the impacts on their programs.

“We have a retail rescue program where we assign our nonprofit organizations to the stores to pick up still-safe-to-consume food that’s no long appropriate to the primary consumer,” said Vanesa Mercado, the food bank’s partner relations director. The program has grown in the last few years, Mercado said, with more than 16 million pounds of food being rescued from retailers to be used for food banks.

Recovery programs will assist many nonprofits in their hunger relief programs, Mercado said, noting that Feeding America is seeing consistent donations from 99 Cents stores each week.

At the Arrow Highway store in Pomona, signs announced the store’s closure but shoppers were unsure about the exact date. The store was still well stocked on April 10, though that could change as prices continue to fall on the already discounted merchandise.

Leonie Crouch, who lives in Pomona, carried a few bags full of goods as she exited the store on a recent morning.

“I am trying to stock up while I still can,” Crouch said. “I guess I will go over to the Dollar Tree once this store closes.”

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