Reinier Lanting has really caught the spirit of Olde Town Okotoks. As the owner of the downtown dollar store Dit ‘n Dat, he’s added The Okotoks General Store - since 2006 to its branding.
“I wanted to continue the sentiment of Old Towne Okotoks,” he said. “I really feel that helps us show that we’re really part of the life of the town.”
Lanting was able to get pictures of the original 1906 Okotoks hardware store from the local archives and found an antique cash register exactly like the one in the picture.
You can see them when you come into the store.
Lanting and a financial partner opened their general store under the banner Your Dollar Store with More in 2006, a year after Lanting came to Canada from Assen in the north of Holland.
“We were a franchise, but we also gave it a local and personal twist,” he said.
The general store format was a success from the beginning. “Dollar stores were hot at that time,” Lanting said.
“The chains had not come to Okotoks yet, and the town was growing rapidly. What’s more, there was not as much retail in Okotoks as there is now.”
In 2015, the franchise contract ended, and they became independent.
The name “Dit & Dat” is Dutch for ‘this and that.’
Lanting’s wife Joy came up with the name.
The thing you can’t help but notice when you go into a store like Dit & Dat is the huge variety of items on sale. My first question was “Reinier, you literally have a thousand or more items for sale, when you set the store up, how did you ever figure out what to buy for stock?”
“Your Dollar Store with More had a product list,” he replied.
“And I also added items based on local demand. The first evening I walked around my store I wondered what I had gotten myself into. But it’s like learning a language.
“Eventually you don’t remember how it all started. It just comes automatically.”
When the Dollarama opened in town in 2012, Lanting knew he would have to give people other reasons to come to his store.
“Up until then, the store was price driven,” he said. “We had to add the element of curiosity to differentiate ourselves. I’ve found I have a good feel for the mood of my customers and can consistently bring new things in.”
He’d already started importing products from Britain and Holland to serve ethnic customers and Canadians who want to try products from other countries.
“It’s fantastic when people try Dutch cookie or an Indonesian mix, and then come back later to tell me how it was,” he said.
“This is what I like to do, so I don’t need to get rich,” he added.
“I just want to have a job that I really like, be part of the life of downtown Okotoks, and eventually pass that legacy on to someone else.”