"There was something about that number that helped move the product," said Schiffer. "He always wanted to start a company where everything sold for 99 cents."

Finally, 15 years ago, Gold started a 99 Cents Only Store on La Tijera Boulevard, near the Los Angeles International Airport.

The company has never taken on debt, and has steadily expanded, leading to the decision to go public last year, Schiffer said. Annual sales average $3.7 million per store, he said.

Though 99 Cents Only Stores keeps tabs on over-runs and close-outs, it actually buys 60 percent of its product through regular channels, direct from manufacturers.

The 99-cent paint brushes it buys in China, for example, are a regular item, not a close-out.

"We buy those by the container-load, direct from the manufacturer," said Schiffer. "We are getting better at buying. We used to buy more often from importers, but now we more often go direct to the manufacturer."

Schiffer conceded that a recent article in the London-based Financial Times was perhaps a bit bold when it stated that one benefit of shopping the Wilshire store was that "film stars" often are seen "trundling carts" there.

"Well, that started three years ago, when it was reported in the National Enquirer that Richard Gere had purchased several cases of Perrier in our Fairfax (Avenue) store," Schiffer said.

"Also, O.J. Simpson's sister went into the Wilshire store, and bought all the copies of his book 'I Want to Tell You' that we had on sale."

No other star sightings are confirmed, said Schiffer.

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