The One Dollar Market and its iconic owner celebrate 25 years in Middlebury

By Guilia Shaughnessy

COURTESY PHOTO
Middlebury’s One Dollar Market originally opened in the lot that currently contains Subway in the late 1990s.

Middlebury’s One Dollar Market, thought to be the last independent dollar store in all of Vermont, is celebrating 25 years of business this year. The store and its owner, Farhad Khan, have become staples of the Middlebury community, with Khan holding a seat on the selectboard for the past three years. 

Born and raised in India, Khan remembers growing up surrounded by the retail business. His father owned a watch repair shop, which Khan took over after graduating high school. After a few years there, Khan decided to move to the United States. 

When he arrived in New York City, Khan worked at a gas station for six months. 

“[It was] the only time I ever worked for someone else,” he said. 

But life in the Big Apple did not suit Khan. On a ski trip to the Snow Bowl in the early 1990s, he decided to move to Vermont.

Khan lived in Burlington with his brother until an opportunity arose for him to open his own store with his brother in Middlebury. He says he knew immediately that Middlebury would be the place for him.

  “The moment I saw Middlebury, I said, ‘This is where I’m going to raise my family. This is where my kids are going to grow up,’” Khan said. 

Middlebury locals had no problem welcoming Khan as one of their own. 

“The people here are very, very nice,” Khan said. “It’s been a great experience, and I have made some of the best friends because of the store.”

  Khan’s move to Middlebury paid off. Just a few years after opening, the store’s financial success allowed Khan and his brother to expand their business. They opened One Dollar Markets throughout the Northeast, and as far as Ohio and Indiana. At one point, Khan owned 21 locations throughout the country. 

According to Khan, this expansion happened too fast. He struggled to balance management of all the stores with his familial commitments, which were similarly expanding — the growth of his business had coincided with his marriage and the birth of his first child. He found that it was difficult to manage issues at other stores. 

“If [the store managers] couldn’t fix it, it would require an overnight flight, and it was not working out,” Khan said. 

His biggest concern was that the original Middlebury location, which had done so well from the beginning, would be jeopardized by his new hectic lifestyle. To avoid this fear becoming reality, he started slowly scaling back until only the Middlebury store remained.

  Being able to focus solely on Middlebury’s One Dollar Market allowed him to deepen his roots in the Middlebury community and turn his store into a local attraction.

  “Believe it or not, I have people coming from as far as St. Alban’s and south of Rutland; people travel once a month just to visit my store, which speaks volumes,” Khan said.

  Because he knows the community so well, Khan is able to tailor the items offered in his store to match the needs of the community. 

 “Every store was different,” he said. “What I sell here would not necessarily sell in Burlington, because Middlebury has a totally different character.” His deep knowledge of the community he serves, Khan believes, is what has allowed the One Dollar Market to do so well.

Khan has become much more in the Middlebury community than just the store’s owner. A few years ago, the town invited him to fill a vacant selectboard seat, and he accepted. He loved the position so much that he ran again and was re-elected.

 He is up for re-election on March 2 and hopes to keep his seat so that he can continue serving the community that accepted him so enthusiastically years ago.

  Khan noted that many of his customers are students from the college, whom he first thought would create a sense of chaos in the store. Years after opening, he says he was proven wrong.

“They want to have a laugh. They pick on each other and run around the store,” Khan said. However, he noted that all the students he has encountered in the past 25 years have been very respectful of him and his merchandise. “I haven’t had a single bad experience,” he said.

  The college community feels the same love and gratitude toward Farhad and his store. Middlebury student Patrick Stevenson ’22 reflected on the many times he has stopped by the store. 

“It is always fun to go shopping with friends at the dollar store for birthdays and team events,” Stevenson said. “They have everything you could need.”

“I appreciate the affordable options he provides for students.” Corley Doyle ’22 said. “[Khan is] so helpful and kind when looking for specific items.” 

Now a longtime Middlebury resident, Khan hopes to be helpful to the ever-changing student body of the college as both a store owner and a selectboard member. 

“If you have any issues in the town, please let me know,” Khan said. “I’ll be there for you.”