ISU Surplus Store: The state-funded thrifting experience


Caitlin Allen

The ISU Surplus Store sells university property for a fraction of its original cost to keep waste out of landfills.

With a warehouse full of furniture, electronics and miscellaneous items that departments at Iowa State University have donated, the Iowa State University Surplus Store is in the running to be the university’s very own thrift store.

The Surplus Store, formerly called Asset Recovery, is a self-funded operation that has made it a mission to keep as much waste as possible out of landfills by redistributing university property through resale or various means of environmentally-friendly waste disposal.

“It’s our responsibility as state employees to repurpose [university property] and resell it,” said Tami Wicks-Jewell, administrative specialist III. “It keeps it from the landfill.”

Students on a budget are able to take advantage of the Surplus Store’s sustainability efforts by purchasing donated items with extreme price markdowns. Three-ring binders, plates, bowls and a wide assortment of cables and cords all sell for 25 to 75 cents each. Visitors to the Surplus Store can also find a variety of chairs and seating options, desks, filing cabinets, vacuums and decor.

The Surplus Store also has a plethora of electronic items available for sale. Several iPad keyboards are currently being sold for $10 each, and an iPhone SE and iPad Air are available for $50.

Along with a wide variety of newer Apple computers and monitors, an assortment of older, inexpensive monitors are also in stock. These items can be used for things such as running gaming servers, increasing personal productivity or as personal tinkering projects.

Logan Gaedke, the employee in charge of electronics at the Surplus Store, explained a lot of time goes into preparing old technology for resale. After an initial evaluation of an electronic item, the Surplus Store will attempt to securely erase the internal data or repair it unless it is damaged beyond use. The store also does not scrap inventory from their sale floor unless it becomes damaged or obsolete, leading to reductions in price over time.

“If we see a 22-inch monitor out and nobody’s going to pay 50 bucks for it, our price goes lower ‘til we get to kind of a sweet spot,” Gaedke said. “It’s not sitting for too long, but we’re still getting some money back for the time we put into it.”

With items consistently being donated and in need of time-consuming preparation or disposal, a lack of adequate staffing means the store is only able to open its doors to the public one day a week.

Mark Ludwig, the manager of the Surplus Store for over 23 years, explains that if the store was able to hire more employees, they could open their doors more often.

“With our staffing and our backlog of stuff on campus, we just don’t have enough bodies,” Ludwig said. “We’ve got to have some time to go out, pick it up, some time to bring it in, the bodies to process it, get it priced, and get it ready to go.”

The Surplus Store is located on Airport Road, less than a ten-minute drive from campus. The store is open Wednesdays from 9 a.m to 3 p.m, with their inventory available for view online on Tuesday afternoons on the ISU Surplus website.