Mike Jones, proprietor of Mike’s Merchandise, which has a little bit of everything, has a saying: “You never know what you’ll find at Mike’s Merchandise.”
Sometimes even Mike is surprised.
Shortly into the COVID-19 pandemic, when the N95 protective mask was being discussed a great deal, an employee came to Mike and said, “You know we’ve got a whole bunch of these masks, don’t you?”
It was news to Mike.
“These were 3M N95 masks, the gold standard of protective masks,” Mike said. “We had boxes and boxes of them, about 3,000 in all. We’d listed them on eBay and forgotten about them.”
Mike’s was asking $1 a mask for them.
“Right at the start of all this, these type masks were listed at $15 a mask on eBay,” Mike said. “eBay got out front and got ahead of it. They pulled all listings of protective wear off the site to prevent price gouging.”
Mike knew he could sell his masks and could sell them at big markup if he wanted to. But he didn’t want to go that route.
“We donated all of them,” Mike said. “We got them to people we thought really needed them, hospitals, nursing homes. Dr. Bishop has a son who works in New York City. We even sent him some.”
Mike’s Merchandise has sold some protective gear during the pandemic, mainly latex gloves and Tyvek suits.
“We’ve probably sold 5,000 of the suits,” he said. “We’ve had protective gloves ever since I’ve been in business. We’d built up quite an inventory and a huge selection as you might imagine.”
He initially had a cardboard sign out front saying they had gloves and later he put it on the electronic sign in front of the building. You could argue Mike's is a hardware store - bolts, nuts and other hardware were among their initial sellers - and they never closed during the shutdown.
“A person who owned 6 nursing homes was driving through town and saw the cardboard sign,” Mike said. “She wheeled around and she ended up buying a truckload of gloves. She just happened to see that sign. She rented a little trailer and we loaded it up with gloves.”
Mike had thought it might take forever to get rid of the gloves and suits and it would’ve if he were just selling them to the home handyman who had a painting project or the outdoorsman who wanted to keep his hands neat as he cleaned fish.
“We have some unusual protective gear too,” Mike said. “We have an item that is just a protective sleeve, not a full suit. We’re trying to donate them to someone.”
He said they were glad they could help a few people with the gear.
eBay is a big part of Mike’s business. He has 3 full-time people who work in nothing but eBay.
“We sell some specialized industrial stuff on eBay and we got some Adidas tennis shoes that hadn’t been out very long and we sold them on there,” Mike said.
At last count, Mike’s Merchandise had more than 15,000 individual items listed on eBay.
Mike’s Merchandise is now located on the opposite end of the building where it had been for years in the old spinning mill next to McDonald’s. Mike vacated the other end of the building to make room for a different kind of surplus business, Crazy Cazboys.
Crazy Cazboys was going to open about the time all the COVID-19 stuff hit and the opening was delayed.
“It will maybe open in June now, once all the safety procedures are in place and we are comfortable with what we’re doing,” Mike said. “It will hopefully give things time to settle down a little more.”