Need to buy something? There's a store for that

All Bolt Store on Ramon Pinto between Mercadillo and Azuay Loja Ecuador
"All Bolt Store" on Ramon Pinto between Mercadillo and Azuay, Loja, Ecuador

In countries like the United States, a consumer in need of a particular item can usually go to some version of a department store to find what they desire. A single store might have sections with hardware, clothing and shoes, toys, groceries, electronics, and many other things under one roof. Such is not the case in Loja. Here the stores are models of specialization.

Need a bolt or a screw? There's a store that sells only fasteners. Need slippers? Want candy made from panela? Need pajamas or a bathrobe? Cones for ice cream or espumilla (soft meringue in a cone)? A slice of pizza? Thread or ribbon for a sewing project? And not just items but also services - there are stores that only repair Oster brand appliances, or repair shoes, or frame pictures for hanging.

One of the exciting (and admittedly, sometimes frustrating) aspects of Loja is going on the hunt to discover who has what, and where. One might walk into a store where you think they will have the item you want only to be told no by the owner, and then be given directions for another place that they "think" will have what you seek.

One expat I know spent several days chasing down leads to try and find color dyes for clothing, and then later, also walked many blocks in search of a specific kind of shelving. If you need a certain type of battery for a phone, for example, you may need to try several stores to locate it.

The good news is that you will probably turn up exactly what you are looking for, or at least an acceptable alternative. Maybe one way to think about Loja is to imagine the city as one big mega store and somewhere within its limits is a shop that is the particular department you desire. Be patient, ask questions, know when to compromise for a similar but different item, and you'll enjoy going on "store safari" to bag the big one.

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