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Sherman Surplus and Salvage’s wild ride to ownership

May 5, 2017
By Charles Erickson - editorial@westfieldrepublican.com , Westfield Republican

SHERMAN - Samantha Laskey began last year unemployed, took a job at Sherman Surplus and Salvage, and six months later was the owner of the business.

"It's doing a lot better now than it was before," Laskey said from behind the sales counter at 107 W. Main St. "When new loads come in, like we just had, it really picks up."

There is no ex-military gear or bits of scavenged metal displayed for sale in the three aisles of the store. Surplus and salvage here means dented food cans and edibles that are close to or slightly past their best-by dates.

Article Photos

Photo by Charles Erickson
Samantha Laskey behind the sales counter of Sherman Surplus and Salvage, at 107 W. Main St. Last year Laskey went from being an employee of the store to its owner.

Prices run from 25 cents to $5 per item.

"We have a lot of gluten-free, organics and healthier foods," Laskey said. She picked up a bag of organic chocolate graham snacks baked in the shape of bunny rabbits. Their best-by date was 17 days in the future. She then examined a box of microwave popcorn that had been best until late in 2016.

"I still eat this," Laskey said about the popcorn. "You can save 75 percent or more by shopping here."

She pointed to a large jar of pickles, priced at $2, which she said had once retailed for about $8.

Products carry name brands and the private labels of supermarket and pharmacy chains, including Western Family and Shurfine. Edibles from Sch-r, an Italian company known for its gluten-free foods, were displayed near bottles of Kikkoman sweet cooking rice seasoning, containers of Heinz ketchup and boxes of Tylenol sinus medication.

"There's a little bit of everything," Laskey said. "Protein bars. Oils. Baking stuff."

Sherman Surplus and Salvage opened in 2011 under the management of an Amish husband and wife.

"It didn't work for them," recalled Jim Mayshark, the landlord. After the couple became discouraged and walked away from the business, he hired employees to keep the store open. One of his hires was Samantha Laskey.

She enjoyed the business, the unusual inventory and meeting the people that drove some distance to shop there. Mayshark was eager to resume the arrangement where he was just the landlord.

"He wanted somebody to take it over, so I expressed interest and now I have it," Laskey said. In addition to paying rent for the store, she is using installments to pay for the business and expects to make the last of these disbursements in November.

The shop has a small housewares and hardware section, with a stock of tongs, metal spoons, copper scours and blister-packages of little prongs used for holding corn on the cob. Across from these was a selection of mock doorknobs.

"They're like for closets," Laskey said. "Where you don't want to actually lock them shut."

From the marketer Amish Farms, simply packaged, were plastic bags of handmade bar soap.

"Those just came in," Laskey said before explaining the soaps were not remnants from the time of the store's first management.

Near the hardware is where the pet foods are displayed, and in the back of the store are coolers full of nonalcoholic beverages.

Much of the inventory is trucked to Sherman from Deals & Steals, a wholesaler in Northampton, Mass. The owner is surprised how many customers travel from as far away as Fredonia to patronize her place.

The store is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.

Laskey is the only employee. Her young son, Aden, helps his mom by moving shipping boxes after they have been emptied of inventory. But as they store's owner and manager and staff, Laskey spends six days a week here. When customers are few, the hours can pass slowly.

"You find stuff to do," Laskey said. "You have to clean shelves, wash windows or stock shelves."

She also spends her workdays updating the store's Facebook page, and correcting the closing time on the trifold pamphlets she and Aden leave in various locations around town.

With Mack's Hometown Market just around the corner, on Church St., Sherman Surplus and Salvage has competition. Laskey feels Sherman is large enough to support the two stores.

"Some people shop both places," she said. "It just depends on your taste buds."

 
 
 

 

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