Trajan "T.B." Baia says this right up front: "We're a different kind of store." But most customers can tell that as soon as they see the organized chaos behind the chain-link fence enclosing Baia's 3-year-old store, Bargain Warehouse. They might have guessed it even earlier, when they saw the sign on Wiscon Road that announces, "We Sell Stuff Cheap."
And they would definitely realize what the store is all about after seeing these two slogans on Baia's business card:
"Closeouts-Salvage-Surplus," and, "I Buy Anything."
He can sell goods cheaply — for about half as much as big-box hardware stores, he says — because he buys merchandise that might otherwise be discarded.
"We buy (from) people going out of business, companies that are overstocked and (that) have to dump it," says Baia, 69. "We're their dumping ground."
Along with one main store, the 51/2-acre lot includes stockpiles of goods in more than 20 trailers, nine box-truck beds, and several shipping containers. Some building materials are even stacked in the open air.
"You name it, we probably have it out there," he said, gesturing from a chair in his cramped office.
The owner finds willing sellers at auctions and on the Internet. And if he doesn't find them, they often find him.
That's what accounts for the vast assortment of new and used merchandise, Baia said.
Among the used items: electricians' and carpenters' tools, propane tanks, industrial-grade plastic barrels and crates, vehicle parts, fire extinguishers, office machines, countertops and shelving, mops and brooms.
His new goods include sunglasses, parachute cord, vitamins, hand tools, kitchen gadgets, bathroom fixtures, wooden handles for a variety of tools, nuts, bolts and screws by the pound, and windows and doors by the hundreds.
Oddly, many items carry no price tags, which have either been worn away by the weather or torn off by shoppers hoping to get a better price.
When asked how prices determined, Baia called a clerk at the counter, Fran Bryant, into his office.
"What do I say when people ask for a price?" he asked her.
"'What will make you happy?' That's what he says," she replied.
Baia nodded. "We try to take (the offered price) and make everybody happy," he said. "(But) it has to be reasonable."
Many customers at the warehouse are retirees with fixed incomes looking for bargains. Others buy supplies for their businesses.
One afternoon last week, for example, a woman bought three unfinished circles of plywood and 15, 5-foot-long boards. She said she was buying them for her sign-painting company.
Baia started his first resale business when he was a 19-year-old in Michigan and ran a similar store in Ocala before opening the Bargain Warehouse.
It's an important job, he said, connecting sellers with goods that they think are trash to buyers who might consider it a treasure.
"When somebody wants to get rid of stuff," he said. "Somebody has to be able to use it."
Beth Gray can be contacted at [email protected]