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Customers sift through bins during the grand opening of It’s $5 on Nov. 17, 2018.

It’s $5 owner Ryan Wager wasn’t planning a long-term commitment to Council Bluffs when he signed a temporary lease to the vacant, former JCPenney retail space in the Mall of the Bluffs.

Five months into the lease, Wager solidified plans to stick around, brought on another business partner from the metro and made plans to expand even further, starting in Sioux City.

“It’s been quite a ride since November. Council Bluffs has really embraced us and with social media, it’s great to hear everyone’s input and make changes,” he said.

Since opening in November, Wager has changed some of his plans at the request of his metro area customers. For example, the store is now open seven days, instead of six, and refills the bins with overstocked, returned goods from online retailers on Saturdays and Sundays.

“I didn’t want to keep telling people on Fridays that we were closed, I hated turning them away,” Wager said. “So we figured out a way to accommodate Friday shoppers and reload bins quicker. Now, it only takes about an hour to turn the store around.”

As a computer science professional, Wager uses his experience to enhance his It’s $5 store customer experience, in conjunction with feedback from his employees.

“If something in our computer system isn’t working, or could be better, my employees will tell me and all I have to do is change it,” he said. “People who aren’t familiar with computers are telling me what to create and it’s mutually gratifying. When they see their idea become something, that’s brand new for them..”

Wager is celebrating the growth of his Council Bluffs store by adding more permanence to his new location. Soon, he said, It’s $5 will have its own truck, better signage and better use of the mall entrances, he said.

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“We want to rework the layout of the store so we can use the mall entrances. We are working with the mall to repaint the parking, that’s a big part of what we’re doing now,” he said. “The store still looks temporary with the banners, but we are transitioning toward a longer-term engagement.”

Wager said he sees the Mall of the Bluffs as the “heart of the community” especially with newly opened Abelardo’s and the Target building becoming a school next year.

“I love being a part of the charge to reinvigorate the community. I’m not a citizen of Council bluffs, but I am a part of this community,” he said.

Wager’s parents live in Shelby County, while he travels often to the area for business.

“Before the two hour drive seemed like a long time, but now it’s become more fluid to see all the friends and family we weren’t always seeing before” he said.

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