Just because your budget has been cut, doesn’t mean you can’t get what you need to operate your business and maybe even grow revenue so that your budget won’t be so tight in the future.

That is – IF you know about UNC Surplus.


UNC Surplus is like a gigantic yard sale except there’s a roof and it’s ongoing.

Their stock changes constantly, but they always have chairs. Some are on wheels. Some aren’t. Some have arms. Some don’t. Some have soft bottoms. Some don’t. Some look relatively new. Some don’t. Some are one of a kind. Some aren’t. But every chair has the same price.


You see that black chair midway back? Behind the yellow one? While I was there, two women dug through and found about 10 of those. I could just imagine them around a conference table, brainstorming a new product or pitching their company to a potential investor. 10 chairs for $100. What a find!

They always have file cabinets too – ranging from $40 to $50. Brand new, the price would be more like $200-300.

Other regular items include desks (from $15-40), shelves, CPU’s, monitors, projectors, printers, phones and keyboards ($1 each).

Back in August they had an entire table of Nike shoes. In very large sizes. Like size 20!  Almost twice the size anyone in my house wears.  

I went there on Friday to take photos for this article, not to buy anything.

On the way over, I heard Ron Stutts talking with Ginger Young about Book Harvest and the book collection event scheduled at Flyleaf Books on Martin Luther King Day.

And wouldn’t you know that when I walked in to the surplus store, the first thing I saw was a shelf of books, 28 of them suitable for young readers. The price? 50 cents each. Of course, I had to buy those.

Beside the book shelf was the shoe table.  Gone.  The shoes, not the table.  In that spot instead were a few lamps and loose leaf notebooks.

And then there was a table and chairs perfect for a new office I’m setting up in Burlington. They were tempting me.

Meanwhile – there was a gentleman zipping around helping people with this and that – all with a ready laugh. Turns out, he’s the manager of the store. Has been for 8 years. His name is Al Jeter.

I asked him what was the most unusual item he had ever seen come through during his 8 years there, thinking he might say size 20 athletic shoes.  But instead he  quickly said “mannequins”.  He said they were anatomically correct mannequins and they sold real fast.  WHo bought them?  He said that men bought the female mannequins and that women bought the manly ones.

Unfortunately, there were no mannequins in stock on Friday.   I gave him my number in case more come in.  And also asked if he would be getting any more of those shoes.  He said there will probably be more next August before football season starts.

During our chat, I told him about the story on WCHL about Book Harvest and so when it was time to pay for the table, two chairs (yes – I bought them) and 28 books – he gave me an even deeper discount on the books. The total for everything was under $50.

I was thrilled to re-purpose these solid, practical pieces with a great price. Thrilled to keep them out of a landfill somewhere.

Go check it out sometime. UNC Surplus helps the university and our planet. It can help your business and your budget too..

If you go:

  • UNC Surplus is open to the public on ‘Tuesdays and Fridays from 9am- 4pm.
  • It’s Cash & Carry.
  • If heading north on Estes Drive, cross over Martin Luther King Blvd, then take the first left onto Facilities Drive. You will see the Surplus Center on the left.
  • For more information, go to their website.

Have you ever shopped at the UNC Surplus store? If so – what’s been your favorite “find”?

Do you have any other favorite spots for “budget” finds?

Please tell me about them below or send a note to Jan@Chapelboro.com.