Thriving Local: The Mystery of Gopher Bargain Center Unraveled
ST. CLOUD -- A store that is forever changing, Gopher Bargain Center is up next in our Thriving Local series.
"It started out during the depression as Gopher Wrecking and they used to tear down old buildings and bridges and they recouped the materials and sold them."
Daniel Held is the President and CEO of Gopher Bargain Center. The family-owned business has worn many hats over the years. From being a lumber company to focusing on railroad salvage, Gopher Bargain Center is constantly reinventing itself.
Held took over the business in the 1980s and like his father and grandfather before him, he decided to he wanted to shift the focus once again.
"The 80s I was into the closeout business. Businesses that changed the packaging on a product like Tide, they want to change the face of it. We're able to buy the old product at a discount and sell it at a discount. Now we're back into buying businesses out that have been affected by the weather."
Insurance salvage is one of Gopher Bargain Center's main ways of buying its inventory. Held says they'll often work with businesses who have been in a hurricane or other natural disaster, they'll buy out their product as long as it's usable.
Because of this business model, every time you walk into Gopher Bargain Center you're going to see new products and products in different places. Held says you'll never know what you'll find.
"We picked up a store in California that had $700,000 worth of health and beauty products, we had to create a whole new section for that."
The store is full of different odds and ends such as groceries, home decor, health and beauty products, hardware and more. But an often overlooked section is upstairs.
"Either they know about the furniture department or they know about the rest of the store. Or they know about everything downstairs but didn't realize we had an upstairs."
Along with the furniture, hidden upstairs is a local gem, a giant captain's chair.
"It was damaged in a train wretch and we got it in here through salvage. We fixed it up and it has been kind of an icon at Gopher like you gotta check out the chair, it's been there forever everybody's had their picture in it. It's been here since the 1950s."
Aside from the giant chair, the store's building is what makes it truly unique.
"You'll see it as you come in here the structures will change the buildings and shapes where you can look at the ceiling and you'll see like a maple ceiling, why do they have a maple ceiling here, well that was my grandfather's office."
Over the past nearly 80 years the building has been added on to. Held has debated moving but he already knows what customers will say...
"If you built a brand new building it just wouldn't feel right! So we put a lot of money into this old building, we put in new roofs, new heating, new air conditioning. We've taken this building and made it structurally sound and we are planning on continuing like this for now."
Gopher Bargain Center first opened on Lincoln Avenue in East St. Cloud in 1941.
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