Long before Craigslist, eBay, and niche online merchants made it easier to find out-of-the-way oddities, stores such as were sourcing and selling obscure, hard-to-find electronic and mechanical components to geeks and artists. Seventy-one years ago, the company's founder listed discarded optics and military equipment in the back pages of Popular Science magazine.
Today the company's catalog includes sundry products from shuttered factories, recovered motors from obsolete electronics, and "as seen on TV" goods that never made it to television. Its stock runs the gamut from "Adult and Kid Toyz" to "Militaria" to "Robot Partz."
"A lot of it already has one foot in the landfill," said CEO Philip Cable, who took the helm eight years ago. He credits the company's increasing sales, which he declined to detail, with the growing popularity of "do it yourself" crafts as well as a public taste for things frugal and eco-friendly.
This 70,000 square foot warehouse outside Chicago in Niles, Ill., supplies the company's three retail stores and a catalog, of which 1.8 million were printed last year. In 2007, the Web site received more than a million visitors and some 100,000 orders were made.
March 26, 2008 8:45 AM PDT
Photo by: Elsa Wenzel/CNET Networks
| Caption by: Elsa Wenzel
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