State surplus store a treasure trove of uncommon goods

State surplus store a treasure trove of uncommon goods

There aren’t many stores in the world where you can buy a forklift, a barber chair and even shoes from a women’s prison, all under one roof. But, there is a store like that in Washington; it’s the Washington State Surplus Store in Tumwater.

“You never know what you’re going to find from one week to the next, it’s true,” said David Baker, State Surplus Operations Manager, giving a tour of the 55,000 square foot warehouse. It’s something like the most random Costco you’ve ever seen, filled with everything from household goods to books and file cabinets.

It’s the ultimate in upcycling; if state agencies don’t need something anymore, the surplus store sells it and the agency gets the profit. Over the last three years, that has added up to $12 million. Inventory moves through pretty quickly.

“If we get 850 chairs in a week,” Baker said. “Chair sale!”

Visiting the store in mid-October, you could find everything from a drill press to a two-wheel drive motorcycle. Craig Clark and his young son drove down from Tacoma to see what they could find.

“We came down to look at some of the items for sale,” Clark said. “We do it every once in awhile as a little adventure.” Clark carried a handful of items, including a baseball mitt and kid-sized hammer for his son. They plenty of company this rainy day. A half hour before the store opened, people were lined up outside, ready to sift through the uncommon goods.

“Everything here is the story behind the stuff,” Baker said. Shoppers can find commercial crab pots, confiscated from poachers and a bin of white canvas shoes, once meant for inmates at the state women’s prison. Anything worth more than a couple hundred bucks goes up for bid online, including vehicles and real estate. They also have a facility in Medical Lake, where you can check out surplus vehicles from our side of the state.

Not everything that ends up here goes up for sale. They’re extremely proud of the Computers 4 Kids program, which brings in computers from state agencies and gets them ready to go back to local schools.

“These come in from state agencies, they’re going to Airway Heights Corrections Center, and they wipe the hard drives,” explained Baker. “Once the hard drives are wiped, they go back into the public school system and the schools can buy them for about $28.”

The program is proud of its efforts to keep state waste out of state landfills. Surplus recycles or re-uses more than 99 percent of what it recovers. In 2013, that equaled 1.75 million pounds of recycled items.

So, next time you need a drum kit or a forklift or a package of prison underwear, head online or head to Tumwater. You never know what you might find.