By: Deborah Gantos

Tell us about the history of G.A.K. Trading Co., Inc. (Surplus Value Center, where the hit movie of Falling Down was filmed.) 

I began thinking about my business in 1970 while I was still in college.  After graduation, in the mid-1970’s, Surplus Value Center of Los Angeles, was born at a local swap meet, when we started selling goods consisting of Vietnam surplus items which was fashionable and “hip,” even at that time. Our company was housed in two apartment car garages. From the garages, we found the need to build our business from a small warehouse to a larger facility. From there, our wholesaling business was born.

The strategy was to take a surplus item that did not fit in with the inventory and then sell it to others who were interested. Our parent company, G.A.K Trading Co., Inc., then started manufacturing items such as duffle bags and utility canvas items. At this point, we began buying government surplus which provided us with huge quantities of surplus inventory. Subsequently, George, my older brother and partner, and I opened six stores and then circumstances influenced us to liquidate three stores, sell two others and retain one flagship store which we grew and where we progressed to full time retailing. George and I then decided to branch out into other business investments around the year 2000. 

Tell us what makes your company so successful 

The way to success begins with the United States, which, to me, is the Land of Opportunity. Secondly, I have a great partner who understands me and I understand him. We complement each other. This does not always happen in partnerships and can be even more difficult if it is a family partnership. This is not the case with us. We make a great team because George is the financial person and I am the technical one. I am sincerely grateful to have such a wonderful brother who also is my partner to help our enterprises succeed.

It is also important to listen to both the older generation and the younger ones. I fondly remember the help and kind, expert advice we were given when first starting our business.  We owe that to the late Dave Blazar, a pioneer in the surplus industry, and Sol Schreck who both represented the older generation. The younger generations can also advise the older generation in the surplus industry on current, marketable and sellable trends and suggest fresh ideas that are beneficial to the retail industry.

We also owe our gratitude to all the supporting surplus dealers, too many to mention, who bought and traded with us in the early days.

Another piece of advice I can give to surplus dealers is to try to attend all trade shows, such as ANM Expo for great deals. Making contacts with others in the industry helps keep our industry alive.

Finally, another factor contributing to success is sometimes just plain luck.

What advice would you give to beginning entrepreneurs?

The #1 rule in becoming a successful entrepreneur is working hard and having perseverance. Don’t give up so fast!  Many beginning entrepreneurs face obstacles and quit. There is usually another way to do something. Talk to people, get advice from mentors or established entrepreneurs. Take a look at all your options and possibilities.

Finally, there is no such thing as a free lunch. You have to earn your success.

Surplus Today extends our heartfelt thanks to Armen Keshishian of Surplus Value Center for this inspiring interview. 

For more information about Surplus Value Center, please contact Armen at