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That place is one of only two stores in the US that sell those things.
That place is one of the only two stores in the US that sell those things.

Since the context is clear and the stores are specified, it sounds to me the sentence with or without the article doesn't make much of a difference. Is the article optional in this case? Does it make a difference in meaning?

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    To my BrE ears there is no difference. If I were writing it, I would not use the definite article. You could actually lose the 'only' and still retain the meaning but possibly lacking the wow factor of there only being two stores in the whole of the US where you can buy them (whatever they are). – JeremyC Sep 24 '18 at 21:41
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    I agree with Jeremy. Editors do not like stuff that is not necessary. Bear in mind that had their been a previous discussion, their could be justification for overkill. – Lambie Sep 24 '18 at 21:52
  • @JeremyC -- Your comment would make a good answer. – Jasper Sep 25 '18 at 0:10
  • @JeremyC -- The word "only" makes another difference, as well. "There are two stores" is ambiguous. It could mean either "There are at least two stores", or "There are only two stores". – Jasper Sep 25 '18 at 0:13
  • @Jasper but it is not ambiguous if we have '...is one of two stores in the US...'. That tells us that there are only two.' – JeremyC Sep 25 '18 at 7:25
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There are several different ways you can say it

That place is one of only two stores in the US that sell those things.
That place is one of two stores in the US that sell those things.
That place is one of the two stores in the US that sell those things.

Only two stores in the US sell those things, that place is one of them

"Only" may be used for emphasis

one of only a handful
one of only two stores

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Both of the sentences convey the same information, but using article "the" in this situation is preferred since it emphasizes on the uniqueness of the store in the country.

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