Ali's Surplus Stuff, Sacramento, CA
Vanished between Fall 2022 and Summer 2023
Excess Solutions, San Jose, CA
Converted entirely to Ebay, 15-Jul-2022, Retail Store Closed.
I find myself in a state of shock. I didn't learn about Excess's closure until the first day after my arrival in the Bay Area, for my 2022 scrounge trip. This leaves, given the apparent demise of the ASVARO swap meet, as of 2022, a grand total of ONE surplus place in the Bay Area proper (Anchor Electronics) and ONE an hour and a half drive away in Sacramento (Ali's).
In all my years, to date, I never imagined I would see a day where the swap-and-scrounge offerings in the Pacific Northwest (WA and Oregon) would exceed the quality and quantity of what I found while growing up in the Bay Area.
Then again, I never thought I'd see two years of utter panic with a global 'pandumbic,' either. :-P
Pandumbic aside -- Draw what conclusions you will from this sad event. My take on it is, simply enough: Truth can indeed be stranger than fiction.
TekDragon, Kent, Washington.
Converted to 100% Ebay sales sometime between 2015-2020, cause: Unknown
Halted Specialties/HSC Electronics, Sunnyvale, CA
Closed 12-Jan-2019. Reason: Complicated
I have mixed feelings about HSC. On the up-side, they've been another long-term surplus presence in an area where long-term survival for such places is a challenge at best. I've gotten a number of good deals from them, even helped them with checking out and updating some equipment, and I respect how they managed to stay around as long as they did.
On the down-side: Their pricing on surplus test gear was, for the vast majority of their stock of it, delusional at best. Their inventory of such equipment never seemed to change very much over the last couple of decades, probably due in large part to such pricing. I can't help but believe this was a significant factor in their demise.
There are, as explained in their farewell letter on their Facebook page, other factors as well. Most notable (and I applaud them for calling this out so bluntly) is the demise of local (as in Silicon Valley) manufacturing, and the R&D and engineering jobs which go with it. When was the last time you came across, say, an oscilloscope or communications radio which had 'MADE IN USA' proudly emblazoned on it AND that came from a company with manufacturing and associated offices right there in the Valley?
I've said it before, and it bears saying again: If you have a surplus place local to you, count yourself lucky and support them with your business!
Weird Stuff Warehouse, Sunnyvale, CA
Closed in April, 2018. Reason: Google's greed
Losing Weird Stuff hurt more than losing Mike Quinn's. The cause, as near as I've been able to determine from their final newsletter and talking to the senior staff, was Google buying up a bunch of buildings and land in the area, including the one Weird Stuff was leasing, and "asking that they vacate the premises as soon as possible."
Thirty-two years of Weird Stuff. Twenty-two of them in their Caribbean Drive location. Essence only knows how much hardware, software, and general surplus stuff they helped to keep out of the landfills, or how many hobbyist and commercial techies they've helped over those years, just by being there and doing what they did best. My initial Internet presence, all the way back in 1997, wouldn't have had a chance if not for the stuff they sold!
Gone. Poof! Just because some soulless monolith of a company thinks they need more space (to do what, for Pity's sake?! Are they going to try turning the entire city of Sunnyvale into a huge data center or something?) They managed to put at least 30 people out of work in one shot. Sure, that may be a drop in the bucket in the larger scheme of things -- But not to those 30 people!
Larry Page and Sergey Brin: Besides costing a whole bunch of dedicated techies and support staff their jobs, you have, in one blow, made the electronics recycling problem in the Bay Area a whole lot worse. Who knows how much more still-useful equipment is going to end up in the landfills or scrap-metal bins because of your greed?
Well. So much for your favorite motto. You should probably add 'Except when it's inconvenient' to the end of it.
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.
Converted to all-Ebay over the last couple of years. No longer qualifies for a listing.
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).
Taraval Computer Repair
Disappeared without notice between 2008-2009. Cause: Unknown.
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!
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.
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!!
Correctest, Milpitas, CA
Disappeared in the last five or so years, cause unknown.
Closed sometime in 2007, exact date and cause unknown.
Triangle Tool &
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.
(Lynn Johnson Electronics),
Lost lease on their building in February 2009. Whereabouts unknown as of Sep-2017.
The Boeing Surplus
Closed 21-Dec-07 due to a horribly short-sighted and selfish 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
Boeing Surplus was, in part, a victim of changing times. The Boeing Company, as a whole, had slimmed down, outsourced, and off-shored 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. Last I heard, she had become head of Boeing's 'Environmental Services' 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 ... annoying... results.
Closed permanently at the end of September, 2006. Cause unknown.
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
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.
Closed for all test gear and related sales sometime during summer, 2006, closed permanently shortly thereafter. 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,
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 were 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
Until then: May their original retail counter rest in peace(es). I certainly won't miss it.
House of Science,
Closed sometime in late 2005-early 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 working as a tech at Condor Electronics in
Mike Quinn Electronics,
Closed 31-Jan-06, most likely due to mismanagement.
Writing memorial notices for surplus places is far from my favorite task, 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
I learned an awful lot about electronics from tinkering with the stuff I got from Quinn's, and I learned a great deal 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
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 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, he'd appreciate it.
Thanks, Mike, Vinnie, and Jay. For everything.
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.
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
. That was why they wanted to get Haltek Roseville
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
, rather than move the store. San Diego
I forget who was running it before that. Someone even grouchier than
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.
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
for 30 years, canvassing for good buys at San Jose
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
and the Guadalupe dump! Mountain View
For the record, I hope he's right.
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.
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
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.,
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.