DUNBAR, W.Va. -- Cathleen Salmons, an office manager at the University of Charleston, knows all about the bargains offered by the West Virginia State Agency for Surplus Property.
"We get excited every time we come here. We've saved a lot of money over the years," Salmons said Thursday as she and other U.C. employees loaded dozens of chairs for the school's faculty offices into a pickup. "Even the truck came from here."
Not many people take advantage of the agency's deals the way Salmons does, though, simply because they don't know they can, according to Elizabeth Perdue, the agency's assistant purchasing director.
"Anyone can come in here and purchase something," Perdue said. "Not a lot of people realize that."
That's why the agency hosted a Customer Appreciation Day on Thursday, extending its usual hours into the evening and reaching out to new customers while recognizing its regulars.
For more than 60 years, the surplus property agency took no-longer-needed items from state agencies, and sold those items to eligible organizations and the general public through a bid process. In 2008, though, the agency nixed the bidding requirement, switching to a direct public sales process that allows customers to more easily view and purchase property for a set price.
"We want to get the word out that we're retail now. You can come in and shop just like at a store," Perdue said. "It just made more sense to do it this way. It was difficult when customers had to place a bid and wait and notify us if they wanted it. Now, we can sell these items more efficiently."
One of the agency's resources is especially underutilized by the public -- its vehicle lot.
"Dealers buy a lot of our cars. But, the public can come here and buy the very same vehicles that they buy from dealerships without having to pay that markup," Perdue said.
The surplus warehouses, located on Charles Avenue in Dunbar, offer everything from vehicles and furniture to tools and computers.
"It's unlimited. We've seen a little bit of everything come through here," Perdue said. "We've had schools come in and buy computers to furnish an entire lab. They're always really pleased to see the prices.