The last Buck or Two store in Manitoba will close for good at the end of January.

"We were unable to negotiate a lease, and the mall indicated they're going in a different direction," said Buck or Two co-owner, Darlene Appleyard.

She and her husband Vern have owned the bargain store since it opened at Portage Place Shopping Centre in 1996. Now, after 20 years, the downtown location is closing.

"Would we rather be there? Yes we would," she said.

"We've got a good staff, we're a locally owned Manitoba business. We employ 25 people. We work with the local schools in the area and a couple different agencies to help young kids get work experience."

Appleyard said they're not planning to relocate at this point. The dollar store business is a hard one to reinvent yourself in as an independent owner, she said.

"When you do get a business going and [bigger corporations] move in next door, they put people out of business. And we've seen that happen across Canada in the independent dollar store business."

Customers will be 'sorely missed'

Buck or Two has to move out by Jan. 31, so Appleyard said they will likely close doors to customers around Jan. 22. She hopes shoppers know how much they meant to her and her husband over the years.

"I feel like we've let them down," she said.

"Being a good and passionate retailer means that you make sure your customers know that they come first with you," said Appleyard. 

"We have a community we have created downtown, and they will be sorely missed everyday we don't go to work."

For one long-time Portage Place shopper, Holly Bertram, Buck or Two was an "anchor." It's the mall's busiest store, she said.

"Essentially, as far as I'm concerned, Portage Place is the Buck or Two," Bertram said.

"It is the biggest draw there. The other stores seem to come and go ... essentially we're not going to have a mall downtown with the direction it's going."

Bertram agrees with Appleyard's assessment; bigger corporations are a large factor in independent stores closing.

"Dollarama has some stuff and [so does] the new Dollar Tree, but they complement one another. Between them and Giant Tiger....those four stores are the most important stores downtown, from what I can see."

Portage Place was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.

Buck or Two goodbye

Goodbye note given to customers to inform them of Buck or Two's closure. (Supplied by Darlene Appleyard)