Surplus Store Memorial


The following are surplus stores which have gone out of business or, for other reasons, no longer qualify for a listing on this site.


Cascade Surplus Electronics (aka, 'Da Lode'), Portland, OR

Closed in 2012. Reason: Low sales, frivolous lawsuit.

Despite Cascade's long and colorful history, no surplus place can last forever and they were certainly no exception. Having to defend themselves against a frivolous lawsuit, brought by a former customer, was the first blow. Losing over 50% of their original store space, coupled with declining sales overall, did the rest.


 

Outback Equipment Company, Morgan Hill

Converted to all-Ebay over the last couple of years.

Although Outback certainly has some good deals, which can be found on Ebay under their store ID of 'outback6,' places which sell only through online auction do not qualify for a specific listing on this site.

With this said: If you do buy something from Outback, and you are located in (or traveling to) the Bay Area, they will be happy to have you do a local pickup of the item(s).


 

ACCRC, Berkeley

Converted to all-recycling, early 2009. No direct sales of any kind, no offices, no warehouse (they're operating literally out of converted freight containers).

Due to changes at ACCRC, both in location and how they operate, they no longer qualify for a listing on this site, and they should not be considered as a resource for normal scrounging (translation: their once-famous 'Free' pile is gone for good).


Taraval Computer Repair

Disappeared without notice between 2008-2009. Cause: Unknown.

I have no idea what happened to this place. During an in-person check, performed while riding along Taraval in a Muni LRV, I couldn't see any sign of them at their former location. They may have moved, or they may simply have been another victim of the country's economic implosion.


All Tech Recyclers

Closed early 2009. Cause: Victim of the economic meltdown

I really do have to give Dan and Jan Burtis a nod on this one. They tried! They really did! Unfortunately, it seems the country's current economic woes are affecting places I never expected them to.

Consider: All Tech, though primarily a recycler, also sold surplus test gear. In hard economic times, companies which might normally be on a regular upgrade cycle for such equipment are going to hang on to what they've got much longer than they would otherwise. This cuts back on supply, which can spell doom for small specialized outfits such as All Tech.

Fortunately, there is hope. Correctest, in Milpitas, has some good deals. And, of course, there's always Weird Stuff Warehouse. They seem to have weathered the slump amazingly well, probably because they've diversified into several sub-areas of the surplus arena.

I've said it before, and it bears saying again: If you have a good surplus outlet within reach, treasure it! Don't ever take it for granted!!


 

Entry removed due to threat of lawsuit.

No, I'm not kidding. I was compelled to remove, by threat of litigation and from this very space, a negative review of a San Jose, CA-based surplus place which, though they once were quite happy to sell to hobbyists, had turned exceedingly unfriendly (I would even say outright hostile), primarily because of one person (hence the negative comments in their memorial entry).

I'm happy to say my compliance with the Cease-and-Desist order, which demanded removal of the publicly-displayed info, seems to have ended the matter. However, two things still puzzle me about it.

First, the person (I use the term loosely) responsible hired a huge law firm in Miami, Florida, one which counts such big names as Del Monte Foods among its clients -- but the dealer in question is based in San Jose! Go figure.

Second: Why in blazes didn't he simply contact me directly, as opposed to throwing lawyers at me right off the bat? I would have been perfectly happy to listen to their side of the story, and amend as warranted.

While litigation may be enough to remove public display of the information, there is no law which controls private communication between individuals. With this in mind, please E-mail me if you are curious about the details, and I will be happy to share what I know.


European Electronics, Santa Rosa

Closed sometime in 2007, exact date and cause unknown.

I never really got a reasonable look at the place, so I can't judge one way or the other how much of a loss this was. In general, as I've said before, the loss of any surplus place just makes my skin crawl.


Triangle Tool & Machine, San Jose

Closed in 2008, Owner wanted out of the business.

Nothing sinister or nasty here, apparently. Just someone who got tired of being in the surplus business. Doubly unfortunate, however, because Triangle was the only 'good' source I knew of, in the Bay Area, for (reasonably) cheaply-priced precision mechanical and electromechanical equipment. In short, they were one of very few dealers who handled stuff useful to robotics hobbyists and companies alike.

Lasermotion may still be able to help along those lines, but I have my doubts they'd be anywhere near the same prices Triangle settled on.


Lynntronix (Lynn Johnson Electronics), San Jose

Lost lease on their building in February 2009, and had to convert to a combination of swap meet sales (Livermore and DeAnza) and Ebay. No longer maintains a retail presence, listing removed accordingly.

Fortunately, Lynn is tougher than circumstances. He still maintains a web site, and an Ebay store, so he's far from completely gone from the surplus scene (unlike other less-fortunate locations listed on this page). And he's still very much worth checking out. However, without a brick-and-mortar location, he no longer qualifies for an active listing here.


 

The Boeing Surplus Retail Store, Kent, WA

Closed 21-Dec-07 due to (most likely) a really bad decision at the corporate level.

This one felt nearly as bad as losing Mike Quinn's place. The only difference is I was in line early enough to watch them take the building signs down (I wonder if they sold them off as well?)

What can you say about a place which was an icon in the Pacific Northwest for 35 years? What can you say about a place which, despite the fact they didn't always have the best deals on test gear or computers, had enough of them to provide 14 years worth of shopping?

Boeing Surplus was, in part, a victim of changing times. The Boeing Company, as a whole, had slimmed down and outsourced so much, there was not a lot of true manufacturing left in the area. This meant what was a great source of surplus dried up quite a bit over the last decade or so.

However, I also think the store was a victim of corporate short-sightedness and greed. Mary Armstrong, the former head of Boeing's Shared Services Group (the division which ran the store), left SSG within a week or two after making the decision to shut the retail store down. She's now the head of Boeing's Environmental Practices division, or some such thing.

To some, this will not seem at all suspicious. To me, it looks far too much like an executive polishing their resume before moving on to greener pastures, with the retail store being the sacrificial lamb.

If you have one or more good surplus places in your area, treasure them! Never take them for granted!! It has become all too clear doing so can have nasty consequences.


 

Wacky Willy's, Portland, OR

Closed permanently at the end of September, 2006. Cause unknown.

I have to admit it's kind of frightening to be writing the third memorial report in the same year. I wouldn't mind so much if new surplus places were springing up to replace those that go away. Unfortunately, such occurrences seem to be increasingly rare.

I got E-mail from Tony Gould (the owner of Cascade Surplus) in early September, 2006, telling me that Wacky Willy's Surplus was closing its doors permanently as of 30-Sep-06. Based on what I've heard from other scroungers, WW was Oregon's answer to Mike Quinn electronics. They seem to have held a similar place in the surplus history of the region, and in the hearts of those who were regulars.

I regret not having had the chance to know them a little better. My only impressions of them were from brief visits in 1994, 1999, 2005, and 2006 (August). The two visits in the 90's were the best of the lot, and things seemed to go progressively downhill from there.

Let this, and the other closures this year, serve as a reminder to all of us who enjoy tinkering with any form of tech-toys. NEVER TAKE ANY GOOD SURPLUS STORE OR DEALER FOR GRANTED! Treasure them all, fellow scroungers, and give them your business if they have what you want at a fair price!


 

Kaiser Technologies, Santa Clara, CA

Closed for all test gear and related sales sometime during summer, 2006. Exact date unknown, cause unknown.

The last report I had for Kaiser Technologies, as of 12-Sep-06, came from my phone call to them in an attempt to set up a visit. According to the person I spoke to, the last remaining holdout for the test gear side (Jan, Dan Burtis's former partner) was "no longer there," and the half of the building that had held the test gear had been completely cleaned out and sold off.

Given that, I don't hold out much hope for the rest of the place. It'll probably remain a computer recycler, but that's all. The Bay Area already has plenty of them, some of which you can actually buy useful things from. Not Kaiser (at least not any more).


 

HMR Recycling Retail Counter, San Francisco, CA

Retail section closed August 2006. Exact date unknown, exact reason unknown.

While the loss of almost any surplus place is something to be a little nervous about (as in "who's going next?"), I'm finding it awfully hard to shed any tears over this particular closure. When HMR started out several years back, they actually started out pretty decent. However, something nasty must have happened because they went from 'decent' to 'reprehensible' in the space of less than a year.

For example: During my 2005 scrounge run, I found the attitudes of their sales people to be exceedingly snooty, barely one step away from insulting. Couple that with the fact that their inventory didn't really have anything that couldn't be found elsewhere, often at a better price and without the snoot factor, and I really think they brought their downfall upon themselves.

Given that HMR appears to be continuing their recycling operations, and has not gone out of business as a company, I cannot ignore the possibility that they may pull a Phoenix number by opening up another retail counter. If they do choose to do so, I sincerely hope they learn -- and learn well! -- from their previous mistakes, and do things right the second time around.

Until then: May their original retail counter rest in peace(es). I certainly won't miss it.


 

House of Science, Ballard, WA

Closed within last year (2005-2006). Exact date unknown, owner went to different job.

House of Science is a unique loss, not just to the surplus arena as a whole but also to any experimenter who enjoyed tinkering with high-voltage goodies. This includes Tesla coils and Van de Graaf generators.

I got an E-mail from the former owner, Kevin Hilbiber, in 2006. Last I heard, he was a tech at Condor Electronics in Seattle (they repair pro music equipment). He told me he still has some small bits of inventory from the old place, and lines on amateur radio gear as well. He can be reached during normal business hours at:

Condor Electronics
125 N 36th St
Seattle WA 98103

206-633-5190


Mike Quinn Electronics, San Leandro, CA.

Closed 31-Jan-06, most likely due to mismanagement.

Writing memorial notices for surplus places is far from my favorite duty, in terms of running this site. This is especially true where the store involved has been such a strong fixture in its native area (and beyond) for so many years, or when it had such a strong influence on the directions I chose to follow in my life.

Mike Quinn's was such a place. They got started just after WW II, and moved to the Oakland Airport area around 1963. I became aware of them (and started shopping there) in 1972, when I was barely 12 years old. I have lots of wonderful memories of many hours spent on a summer Saturday afternoon, poking around in their dusty old building at the north end of the Oakland Airport, rarely looking for anything in particular, and buying whatever I could afford whenever I could afford it (which, fortunately, was frequently).

I learned an awful lot about electronics from tinkering with the stuff I got from Quinn's, and I learned a great deal more about the surplus market from shopping there. Most recently, I learned that their closure was, apparently, due to a mismanagement problem that started only in the last decade or so, and got progressively worse. I'm not going to name names in public, but suffice to say that the primary reason for Quinn's decline and downfall seems to be that the owners and management simply didn't "get it" about the surplus business.

More specifically, they didn't seem to understand (or care) that you have to keep a steady stream of stuff flowing through if you hope to survive in the long run, and that your store has to have some semblance of organization so that buyers can find what they're after with a minimum of effort.

Quinn's, for all its 'techie charm,' was a horrendous mess in terms of organization. They badly needed to put things like test gear in one dedicated area, and various types of components in others. They also needed (equally badly!) a lot more square footage than they had at the San Leandro location. Above all else, though, they needed fresh inventory! Put all those factors together, and their demise seems sadly inevitable.

Quinn's touched a lot of people in their time, most far better known than I’ll ever be; George Morrow, Bill Godbout, and numerous other computer pioneer's names can be found among their past customers. Mike Quinn himself, and his employees, helped the 'computer revolution' in many ways. I think it is safe to say that the world of personal computing, at least in the Bay Area, would have been wildly different had it not been for the Man and the Place.

No surplus store can last forever. That's a given. However, Quinn's gave it a bloody good try. I'm sure that they will be remembered and spoken of in Bay Area electronics circles for years to come.

If you've read this far, please take a moment to remember Mike and his store. Although I didn't know Mike that well before he passed on (I was too young and ignorant at the time to appreciate who I was talking to), I'd like to think, wherever he is now, that he'd appreciate it.

Thanks, Mike, Vinnie, and Jay. For everything.


Northwest Surplus Electronics, Eugene, OR.

Got out of the surplus business around September of 2004.

Nothing sinister or greedy here. According to a chat I had with the owner, he simply decided to get out of the surplus business and go to selling all new stuff. Due to that change, they became simply 'Northwest Electronics,' and they no longer qualify for a listing here.


Electronica Computer Clearance Center, Santa Clara, CA.

Transitioned to all-Ebay sales, 30-Oct-05.

Again, nothing really sinister here, unless you count the overpricing of retail space in the Silly-Con Valley in a post dot-bomb era. Electronica was a short-term (less than six months) phenomenon, but they had tremendous potential. Regrettably, it seems they felt it necessary to transition to Ebay-only sales, without any kind of bricks-and-mortar storefront. The rent for said storefront was, apparently, too high for their comfort.

They're still very much worth buying from, though I don't know what their Ebay ID is. Their prices on accessory boards, servers, and networking goodies were some of the best I'd seen in years.


Haltek Electronics, formerly at 1062 Linda Vista Ave., Mountain View, CA.

FORCED OUT OF BUSINESS? Read for yourself and decide. Closed 28-Apr-00

The circumstances under which this closing took place were, I'm told, not pleasant. It seems that Haltek's landlord, who apparently decided to demonstrate what a GPF (Greedy Pinhead Fsck) s/he/it could be, started working behind Haltek's back to find another tenant. Haltek was never told about this until the last moment.

One was, apparently, found, and it was one that offered to pay about twice what Haltek could afford. The land-ass, in essence, told Haltek to pack up and leave. No arguments, no negotiation, no helping them to find another spot. It was a matter of "I've found someone that'll pay twice what you will. Get out!"

This entire event bothers me deeply, not so much because we lost a good surplus store, that would likely have kept on going indefinitely, but because what happened was done entirely in the name of greed, and in an underhanded manner to boot.

Please don't get me wrong, BTW. I don't have a problem with anyone earning enough to make a decent living, or with companies turning a reasonable profit. What I DO have a serious problem with is the mindset of much of our current culture, which seems to worship the Almighty Dollar above all other values.

In summary: Haltek was, at first glance, unfairly forced out of business by a landlord who didn't give an aerial intercourse through a toroidal pastry who they hurt, or how unethical they were acting, as long as they got paid. Said land-ass went for short-term gain over long-term stability, and we (hobbyists, scroungers) all get screwed over as a result, along with Haltek's former employees.

The ironic part is that it's entirely possible the landlord could end up being worse off than if they'd just let Haltek stay put. They had been there for at least 25 years, and probably would have been content to just stay there as long as they could. This means that the building they were in is pretty run-down, and it would have needed major remodeling, inside and out, before it could take another tenant.

There is, however, a silver lining to this story, at least if you think of it as poetic justice. It seems that the deal with the tenant that was going to move in after Haltek left fell through. I don't think the new tenant ever moved in. If they did, it was a very short stay.

But wait, there's more, and it just keeps getting better! Within one year of Haltek's enforced departure, the tenant of the building directly across from them, owned by the same land-ass, vacated and moved to the northern valley, near Sacramento. This means that said land-ass had, all of a sudden, not one but TWO very expensive (in terms of property taxes) empty buildings to worry about. I can only guess what the combined costs did to s/he/its bank account!

Want more? You got it, and it STILL gets better! I did a drive-by with a friend of mine in September 2002, and both buildings were STILL completely empty of tenants! The same in 2003 with another drive-by, same time of year. This means that the land-ass has been stuck with some very nasty property taxes for at least two years!

Here's the really juicy part. My buddy and I did another drive-by in Sep. 2004, just barely two weeks ago at the time of this writing. Both buildings, at first glance, appeared to still be very empty of tenants, and the awning out front had, somehow, gotten a big hole torn in it and looked really tacky.

"But what's this?" we said to each other, as we spotted an open window on the second floor. A closer look revealed what looked very much like personal effects on the window sill, and hangings on the walls. In short, it appeared that someone was actually living, as in taken up residence, in Haltek's old building.

This is, as one might imagine, a blatant violation of City of Mountain View zoning codes, to say nothing of fire codes, because the building and surrounding area is zoned as commercial and light-industrial.

Then we looked downstairs. What did we see but piles and piles and MORE piles of gunky-looking cardboard boxes and other flammables, all stacked at least six feet high up against the windows and all OVER the lower floor!

My friend and I decided that this simply would not do. So, when I got back from the trip, I placed a call to the City of Mountain View's Code Enforcement unit, and gave them full details of what we'd seen. They were quite surprised, yet quite happy, to hear about such wild violations of city codes, and promised to have an inspector look things over post-haste.

I don't know for certain, but I would guess that the land-ass responsible for the building was getting so desperate for a tenant that he was willing to ignore local codes just to get some cash flowing in from the place. I really hope that my call put a crimp in that particular plan.

Anyway, I've not heard any more as of 25-Sep-04. I'm going to ask my friend in the Bay Area to do a drive-by in the near future, and see if there have been any further changes. I'll post any fresh news I get to this page.

UPDATE: New information as of 5-Nov-04 .

A fellow scrounger in the Bay Area has informed me that there is more to the Haltek story than meets the eye. I'm attaching a relevant excerpt from his E-mail to me below. Thanks to Dave DiGiacomo.


"There is more to the Haltek story than you mention. I think the
property was owned by Test Lab Company. When DoveBid bought Test Lab Co
as part of the run up to one of their failed IPO attempts, Mike Magown
moved the operation to Roseville. That was why they wanted to get Haltek
off the property too. If this theory is correct, DoveBid acquired Test
Lab Co's (tiny) property tax basis along with the property, so it's not
costing them much.

Also, if you dealt much with Chris Chalfont, you know that his heart wasn't
in the surplus business. He didn't really try to find a new location or
sell the business..."

After I queried him as to whether Chris Chalfont was Haltek's owner, and why he didn't try to preserve the place, this is what I got back.

>>Also, if you dealt much with Chris Chalfont, you know that his heart wasn't
>>in the surplus business. He didn't really try to find a new location or
>>sell the business.
>
>I assume he was the owner of Haltek? I can't say that I recall meeting
>him. I'm puzzled, though... If his heart wasn't really in the business,
>why did Haltek last as long as they did?

"He didn't have it for that long, maybe 3-4 years? He decided to move to
San Diego, rather than move the store.

I forget who was running it before that. Someone even grouchier than
Chris..."


Update, 25-Sep-06:

I received E-mail today from a Bay Area scrounger who was very familiar with the early history of Haltek and Halted. He provided some fascinating insight on just how closely connected the two were at one time (it appears, in fact, that they were founded by the same guy).

With that in mind, here are his comments, verbatim, just as I received them. The longer sentences have been broken into paragraphs for easier reading, but I have not made any other changes.

The contributor will remain anonymous by request.


"Hello!

I just happened onto your web page while getting ready fro a trip to the
Valley, and saw the pieces you had written about Haltek and it's
history. I lived in San Jose for 30 years, canvassing for good buys at
the electronics surplus stores, and have a bit of history to give you on
Halted, Haltek etc..

*Hal* Elzig (see the connection) started his operation in an open yard.
Storage carport sort of venue around Moffett Field circa 1968-69. I
worked summers out there for parts just during my first year of college
at SJ State. Huge place, maybe five acres or more. The surplus hounds
found and loved this place- it was out of the way, not a storefront, and
he moved TONS of new inventory weekly. He was selling mil-grade hermetic
power and audio transformers by the 55 gallon barrel for a few bucks.

He then renamed the outfit Halted (Hal and Ted someone) and eventually
moved it to the place in Mtn View. He sold the company (Lord knows why,
maybe his partner wanted out) to Jim Trees and had a non-compete
agreement for perhaps three years. He inteneded to go into the
"wholesale business" but missed the people contact too much, so he
started Haltek (Hal's Tech stuff).

He was around forever, and I remember going in one time and meeting his daughter (a tall blonde), who was going to take care of the business as Hal had some kind of medical problem. Smoking probably got him. From that point the place went downhill in a hurry, with people I didn't know running it (maybe in-laws or something?). From there on out, I think you have the story quite accurately.

I love the trips to places rich in surplus gear from the hi-tech workd,
and silicaon valley has treasures beyond nelief, it is entirely too bad
now that many of the companies have gone under and so much found it's
way to landfills. Someday someone will find an absolute treasure trove
buried around Moffett and Mountain View and the Guadalupe dump!


 

For the record, I hope he's right. Just as one example, the Bay Area badly needs a good source of used test equipment at the moment


Update, 2-Jan-05: Back in early December '04, I got a couple of E-mails from a long-time friend and fellow electronics hack in the Bay Area, one who happens to have some fairly deep connections in the surplus industry. He was able to shed some more light on the Mystery of Haltek. However, he will remain anonymous due to personal request.

"Hey Bruce,

Hadn't read through your surplus list in a while, and was particularly interested in the info on Haltek. I can't confirm any of this to the degree I'd want to be quoted online, other than maybe in a speculative/anonymous sense,but this is my own particular slant on the Haltek deal.

When I first became aware of Haltek, from a business sense, was dealing with the former owner Jim Trees, who used to occasionally buy stuff from us, usually test equipment. Jim was always a friendly and upstanding guy and good to deal with. Jim decided to semi-retire probably 15 years ago or a bit more, and split off his test equipment to form Test Lab Co. across the street.

The remaining Haltek was bought by Oracle, although I don't know the exact arrangements as to who was running it. My dealings with them after that were only as a customer on a personal basis. They decided it wasn't profitable enough (or wasn't a worthwhile writeoff?) and it was sold again to JDR Microdevices (Jeff Rose), or to someone somehow connected with them, primarily as an outlet for their not-catalog-worthy surplus inventory.

As far as I know, this was the ownership in effect when they were forced out in the Dot Con / Milk the Property Values For All They're Worth scam (which also forced Alltronics out of their San Jose location, not to mention countless other long term businesses in the south bay...). I can't confirm any of this other than to say this was the understanding I got from working in the business, so if someone has more specific or more credible info I'll defer to their version. But thought I'd share my take on it anyway, in case it might fill in a couple blanks..."


I stopped seeing old JDR stock at Haltek about a year or so before they went away. JDR is still around (much to my surprise), although they do not qualify for a listing on this site because they don't appear to sell any surplus hardware (or, if they do, they're below the 50% threshold required to qualify).

Here's my $0.02 worth. I would speculate that Haltek's being bought out by Oracle, even temporarily, was most likely the Beginning of the End for them. I have since learned (as of 26-Apr-07) that this is NOT the same Oracle that's owned by Larry Ellison, but a place known as 'Oracle Electronics & Trading.' I know nothing else about them other than that they are (so I've been told) long since out of business..

JDR is a more interesting case. They did, at one time, sell surplus hardware and old stock right out of their retail location on Bascom Ave. However, to my eyes, the surplus stock always looked a bit out of place considering how downright polished the rest of the store was. My guess is that JDR management did want to sell the old stuff instead of just pitching it, but they also didn't want the "junky" look of surplus in their nice, clean store.

As far as Haltek is concerned, JDR probably saw them as a neat way to get rid of their surplus, yet keep things clean. Then, as my friend pointed out in his missive above, the Dot Bomb hit and property values went nuts. JDR, now perceiving Haltek as the same "Loss Leader" Oracle Electronics no doubt bought them for, dumped them.

I will happily correct any or all of the above if any of the Technoid's readers know a different story. It still appears that Haltek was unnecessarily and unfairly forced out of business, though the circumstances may not have been as sinister as I initially heard.


 

Sharon Industries, formerly at 672 Commercial St., San Jose.

Disappeared without notice sometime in 2003.

The demise of Sharon Industries was another sad one for me. They were, in the computer and network sense of the word, the Mike Quinn Electronics of the south bay. Prices were really good, as was the service, and the owner was always willing to share a bottle of water, chilled juice, or some blackberries.

I really have no idea what happened to them. One year they were there, the next they'd disappeared. If any of you reading this happen to know where they went, or how they came to vanish into the wind, I'd like to hear from you.


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