It’s easy to dismiss something when the outside is damaged. We do it all the time. In the supermarket, when buying cereal or soup? Admit it. If there is a dent or a scratch on the packaging, the vast majority of people will reach around and grab the perfect looking box or can.
That’s one of the primary reasons large supermarket chains refuse products. It’s also why discount markets like Centralia’s B&D Market are able to offer goods at prices 30-75% below their competitors. If people are willing to look at what’s inside they stand to save a lot of money.
B&D Market started as a mother-son operation more than 20 years ago. The “B” stands for Barbara the “D” for her son, David. When Barbara passed away in 1997, David Haladay kept the business going despite a number of obstacles.
Haladay knows a lot about being judged by appearances. When he was born, a birth injury left him with damaged vocal cords and severed nerves in his neck. His disability is often mistaken for Cerebral Palsy or some sort of cognitive or neurological disability.
People often dismiss Haladay, turning, instead to his business partner, Matt Dare. Dare quickly points them to the man with the information. “They will look at me, and I’ll say ‘You’re talking to the wrong person.’” After all, Dare has only been on board since 2003; Haliday has been in the business since he was 14.
“We actually started out as an antique store. From there we went to second hand,” Haladay says. Next came more of a variety/dollar store format. The discount grocery and liquidator concept has proven to be the most successful. The store moved to its present location, just north of Centralia’s revitalized downtown area, 16 years ago this month.
“We are a combination between a discount and convenience store, so we sell products you would find every day, and we also sell reclaimed groceries,” says Haladay.
“When a grocery store like Walmart or Safeway has an overstock or short-dated or a damage corner it all goes back to reclaim, and that’s where we come in,” explains Haladay. On any given day, shoppers can find everything from candy and cereal to canned goods. Beauty products and household items like soap and toilet paper also stock the shelves. Some of the products are close-outs or discontinued items.
The store recently acquired 800 cases of Gatorade Sport Drinks. “One vendor lost his contract to another vendor, so they had to clean out their warehouse,” smiles Haladay. As a result, a 24-ounce bottle that would normally sell for $1.99 at a convenience store is on sale at B&D for $.50.
Sometimes it’s simply a matter of timing. When a warehouse has a surplus and knows a traditional grocery store can’t move the item before the expiration date, they rely upon stores like B&D. But customers shouldn’t worry that the products they’re buying are spoiled.
“We go by guidelines from the health department. It can’t have a dent on a crease or a bulge. If it’s sealed then it’s perfectly fine.” Discount stores also have to follow the same expiration regulations as their larger counterparts. If a product has passed its “best by” date, it has to be tossed.
The store is able to stock some name items on a regular basis. Beer and wine sales account for a large percentage of their revenue. “We are number two in the county for beer sales,” Haladay says proudly. They are able to do special orders for weddings and other events. “We’ll have people come in for 50-75 cases.” When you’re catering your own event, those kind of savings are enticing.
Despite his best sellers, Haladay is always willing to change things up a bit.
“When the big Dollar Store went out of business a couple of months ago, I decided to bring (those types of items) in because the community needed that,” says Haladay. He knows his customer base well. People with low incomes are a large part of his business. “They can buy more for their money,” he says simply. And although B&D does not carry fresh produce or meat, the grocery items can be purchased with food stamps.
Although he has a regular customer base for many of his items, Haladay has found that diversifying and trying new things is the best way to keep his business moving forward. “We are not afraid to try a new product, so we tell our vendors, if you have something new, bring it to us, let us try it out and see what happens.”
The newest venture is the survival market. Customers looking for Meals Ready to Eat – better known as MREs – can find them at B&D. “These are people who are preparing for if we have an earthquake or a flood or anything like that,” Haladay says of these new customers. Additional military surplus items sit on nearby shelves.
In the same vein, about a year ago, the store decided to carry discount ammunition. “In Lewis County we have a lot of hunters. It’s been interesting (because) there are so many different types (of ammunition). It takes a long time to learn what you need.” B&D currently carries a range of different caliber rounds for rifles, shotguns, and pistols. They can also do custom ammunition orders.
It might seem strange to see candy, canned soup and toilet paper sold in the same space as lottery tickets, cigarettes, beer and ammunition, but it’s not really. The larger chains do it too. B&D just isn’t as big as they are. They aren’t quite as shiny. The package isn’t quite as pretty.
The next time you’re in Centralia, enjoy your time in the beautiful down town area, then drive a few blocks north to where it’s a little more run down. A little more damaged. There you’ll find B&D Market. There you’ll find some good deals.
A diamond in the rough. It’s true of the items in the store as well as they guy who runs the whole thing.
B&D Market is located at 601 N. Tower Ave., Centralia, WA, 98531