Surplus Today Spotlight:  Camo Surplus

Camo Surplus is located in Vernon, California.  It was passed down by his father to Mike Kalayjian.


Tell us about the history of your company.

Camo Surplus started out as a surplus company in 1965. My dad started it and I have helped him since I was eight years old. I got into the business when I finished high school. Dad started manufacturing duffel bags and handbags himself, using military surplus that he purchased from all over the world. Camo Surplus came into being after my father passed away, about 10 years ago. Since then, we’ve kept the tradition of making our own duffel bags, but in addition to using the traditional buff fabrics (nylons, corduroys, etc.), we now upcycle old military surplus items, turning them into different bags and packs.


What sort of products do you offer?

We offer military surplus from around the world. Ninety-nine percent of what we offer is military surplus, but we’ll buy outside of true surplus for things like movies, where we need all sizes for a certain costume. We have our own line of bags, clothing and accessories that we make from upcycled surplus.


What are your best sellers?

Our U.S. products are our best sellers. Any surplus made in the U.S. Most of our customers love our U.S. made surplus products. And of course our bag line does well. Everything else sells, but not as much as those items.


What makes your company unique?

I don’t want to give away any secrets, but we have a different approach to selling surplus; we sell it to post-apocalyptic and zombie cosplay people, and people who reenact. What makes us unique is what we do with surplus. Instead of destroying it, we repurpose or upcycle it and turn it into a newer product, especially fashion items. We are currently working with Kanye West for his line of clothing.


What can you tell us about the people who purchase your products?

Actually, we started off selling to Army/Navy, mom and pop stores. Right now many surplus stores aren’t even surplus stores anymore. A lot of imported product is being sold now. A positive is that you can now get the sizes you need, which wasn’t always the case with true surplus. We now work more with fashion people and the movie/TV industry, which accounts for about 70% of our customers. As far as surplus stores are concerned, it’s kind of dying out.


Is your business a family-owned business?

Yes. It was passed down from my father to me.


What advice might you give to small or family-owned businesses?

In any family-owned business, it’s hard to work with family; they expect certain things from you. It’s important to establish who is in control. When you’re working with your brother, like I am, it’s a question of who is the alpha, who’s going to be in charge of what. And it’s better if you have departments inside your business. That way, each one of you can run a certain part of the business, so you don’t start clashing. It’s good to work with family, there’s more trust there. You don’t want to get too personal with your business, though.


Do you use any sort of online resources, such as social media and eCommerce?

I’m trying to get into social media, but I hate technology. I let my youngest son handle it. I’m old school.


What features of Surplus Today do you find enjoyable or useful?

All of your ads are useful and the advertisers are cool. You have some really good article. I read it back to front. Lots of good information in there. I suggest everyone should buy the magazine, especially if they have a surplus store, or even close to surplus. There could be more ads and products, but it’s a good, very useful magazine.


Is there anything else you would like to add?

We carry a wide range of products and are trying to come up with new ones. Contact us to let us know what type of store you have, because I’m sure we have a product for you, or we can make it, because we do all of our manufacturing in-house in Vernon, California. We’re not heavy into the Internet; we bring 200 products to tradeshows, but we carry closer to 3000 products.


Camo Surplus
2835 E. 26th St.
Vernon CA 90058
Company telephone: 323-263-1891
Fax: 323-263-9214
Contact: Mike Kalayjian
Company email: