99-cent store pioneer dies a billionaire

Dave Gold, founder of the 99 Cents Only Stores, might have loved a good bargain. But he died filthy rich.

Gold, who popularized the 99-cent store concept with a string of more than 300 shops that eventually extended from California to Texas, reportedly died on Monday of an apparent heart attack. He was 80 years old.

"My dad really loved the merchandise. He would come home at the end of the day when we were younger and say, 'Look at this beautiful shampoo,'" his daughter Karen Schiffer told The Los Angeles Times.

"He would say, 'We have 50 truckloads of this Kleenex coming in.' He would get excited and pass it out to everybody."

Today, so-called dollar stores dot the American landscape like dandelions on an overgrown lawn.

But when Gold opened his first 99 Cents Only Store in Los Angeles in 1982, the concept was reserved for expired or broken products. “A retail graveyard,” is how The Times referred to such shops before Gold popularized the concept.

Gold revolutionized the idea, offering quality merchandise at a reasonable cost. The idea caught on and he reportedly amassed a fortune in the billions.

"Whenever I'd put wine or cheese on sale for $1.02 or 98 cents, it never sold out," Gold recalled in a Times interview in 2003. "When I put a 99-cent sign on anything, it was gone in no time. I realized it was a magic number. I thought, wouldn't it be fun to have a store where everything was good quality and everything was 99 cents?"