American Science & Surplus a study in variety
By Paul Sullivan For The Courier-News January 31, 2013 3:48PM
American Science and Surplus Owner and President Patrick Meyer with Jarvis, the store’s mascot. The flying man mascot was named after an employee’s son who is now also an employee of the store.
33W361 Roosevelt Road (Route 38, west of Kirk a quarter-mile)
Geneva, IL 60134
Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Quote: “We’re a step before the landfill.”
Updated: March 2, 2013 11:58AM
Need a collar for your hamster? You can find one at American Science & Surplus, a unique Geneva-area store with wacky merchandise.
The hamster collars began as regular bracelets, said Pat Meyer, 44 year-old president and owner of the company’s Geneva, Chicago and Milwaukee stores. When the bracelets didn’t sell, they were renamed and merchandised as hamster collars. Sales were brisk, said Meyer. “It’s all in the presentation.”
Merchandise prices at American Science & Surplus range from a penny to $2,000 telescopes. Products arrive from a wide variety of sources, such as as-seen-on-TV products that didn’t work; military surplus (a WW II toilet displayed at the front door with a cut-out of a man using it could be repurposed as an interesting patio planter); traditional product vendors; and individuals with something to sell.
“Employees from a manufacturing plant will bring us leftover pieces and parts,” said Meyer, “like these cork rings cut-outs that are manufacturing scrap. We’re a step before the landfill. We can buy it by the truckload or the bin-full.”
Not a typical retail store, American Science & Surplus sells shopping fun as well as some strange and interesting products.
There are no plan-a-grams for merchandise such as what the big box stores use. Store employees create their own merchandising signs, Meyer said. “It gives them an opportunity to be creative. Megan, (Slaker, the store manager) made the cardboard cut-out of the man on the toilet. We’re a fun place to shop and a fun place to work.”
Catalog and Web sales account for two-thirds of the company’s sales. The three stores account for the balance of sales for the company’s 4,000 products. The company website (sciplus.com) receives upward of 24 million hits per month, and that includes 100,000 new/unique visits.
Meyer credits freelance copywriter Terry Sullivan for much of the catalog’s success. “We get comments about his copy on a daily basis. We are bluntly honest. If a product’s batteries are dead or require an odd battery size, we say so. That’s why it’s a deal. People eat it up. We don’t take ourselves too seriously.”
Meyer recently purchased the firm. He started working at the store 28 years ago on a high school work-study program. Other than a one-day stint spray-painting electrical components — “I didn’t like it” — it’s the only job he’s ever had. He worked his way up the management ladder as clerk, assistant store manager, technical support, assistant buyer, head buyer, and now, owner. “I’ve done it all,” he said.