CLEVELAND — A new salvage store in northeast Ohio is proving that one store’s trash can be another’s top seller.
Sue Z’s Salvage opened this summer in Madison and is staying busy keeping the shelves stocked.
The store sells items that may have cosmetic damage, or be near or past their expiration date. By selling these items, Sue Z’s is able to charge significantly less than traditional grocery stores and help cut down on food waste.
The store is attracting shoppers like Karen Wiley, who tries to cut costs where she can to save money.
“It’s hard for people anymore,” she said. “Especially with the ongoing COVID. It’s hard for people to eat.”
She said the deep discounts on food and household items keep her coming back to the store each week.
“Curiosity killed the cat,” she said. “I really enjoy going through. I just browse, pick up what I need.”
She visits the store so often because the stock changes with every shipment.
“We’ve been getting (shipments) every week to fill the store up,” said Susan Campbell.
Campbell co-owns the store with Timothy Bryan.
The products inside each shipment are a surprise to both of them.
“It’s fun, actually,” said Campbell, who enjoys going through each box and pricing everything.
The prices are based on what the product’s full retail price is at other stores.
“And then price them down 40-60, sometimes 70%,” she said.
That’s because the items aren’t exactly perfect, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any quality control.
“There’s stuff that we do toss,” Bryan said. “Make sure everything’s safe.”
He said one thing they pay close attention to is the seal on a product.
“If the seal ain’t broken, then it’s pretty good,” he said. “It’s just dented.”
Bryan said their low prices help feed families at a fraction of the cost.
“This isn’t a salvage store like some people think, coming in and getting old parts, (that) sort of thing,” he said. “This is groceries and it’s good groceries. Name brand groceries.”
The store is also participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to provide additional support.
“I haven’t had one person come in here and say, ‘Aw, man, it’s too high,’” he said, referring to their prices.
The quality of items at a salvage store can be a gamble, but Wiley said the savings is worth taking the chance.
“You have to watch, of course, but so far I haven’t gotten anything that’s bad,” she said. “Especially for an elderly person. You can buy things a little cheaper, eat it right away and you’re in good shape.”
Damaged packaging and expired dates are not necessarily a sign the product has gone bad or is unsafe if it’s been handled safely. They recommend shoppers of salvage stores check to ensure products aren’t open or resealed, which could be a sign bacteria may be growing inside the product, according to the FDA.