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Santa Maria Sun / Biz Spotlight

The following article was posted on January 29th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 13, Issue 47 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 47

Spotlight on: Paradise Trading Post

BY CAMILLIA LANHAM

It’s Storage Wars, Pawn Stars, and American Pickers all rolled into one.

When greeting new customers, that’s essentially how Paradise Trading Post owner Mike Alexander explains his store. And the description is accurate considering the beginnings of his three-month-old Orcutt storefront stemmed from watching Storage Wars.


TRADING POST STARS:
Paradise Trading Post owner Mike Alexander (right)and store manager Adam “Slimly” Johnson are like family to the customers who’ve already made the three-month-old store a regular stop during their week.
PHOTO BY CAMILLIA LANHAM

“I saw the TV show and I thought it was funny,” Alexander said. “The next thing I knew, I had won three storage lockers.”

That became something of an addiction, and Alexander has won many storage lockers since his first auction two years ago. For him, part of the fun is the gamble, not knowing what is inside.

Storage locker jewels include a Bruce Springsteen-autographed guitar, a 1952 Seeburg jukebox, and a line of celebrity-designed shoes purchased at a charity auction by Robin Young. All are on display at the Trading Post along with antique dishes, movie props, clothes, and vintage toys still in their boxes.

The money Alexander used to buy his first lockers was profit from his two other businesses: Swoosh Basketball, which has organized 70 to 80 tournaments a year for the last 15 years, and Paradise Entertainment, a 25-year-old music and DJ company.

Now he runs all three businesses out of his store next to Albertsons on East Clark Avenue. Alexander initially moved from his garage-based office to the store to gain a professional office space for Swoosh and the music company, but it quickly morphed to house both businesses and what’s now the trading post.

“There was a lot of stuff in storage, so we were able to bring it here,” Alexander said. “It became fun, and this became my office.”

 While he’s always sold his storage-locker items, sales were always either through word of mouth or the Internet. Now he uses his office, which is full of regulars and new customers on a Friday afternoon.

One wall is packed with shelved items, organized by year, that date back to the turn of the 19th century. Vinyl records take up one-fourth of the store floor, and there’s a back room nicknamed “dollar alley” where everything costs $1.

One of Alexander’s regular pickers, Orcutt resident Bill Donnelly, visits the store twice a day.

   “I’d come in here three times a day if my wife let me,” Donnelly said. “I come in around 10 or 11 [a.m.] and find something, buy it; I come back in at 4 [p.m.] and everything’s different.”

   Donnelly said the store is definitely not a thrift store, and it’s something that can’t be found in many places. He tells his wife it’s the “pickers’ store.”

   The shop is still in the process of finding itself. It’s not an antique store and it’s not a vintage store, either. But Alexander does try to make sure the items are unique and the inventory changes regularly.

Alexander and his manager, Adam Johnson, constantly rearrange the store, replacing sold items, adding new purchases, and removing old inventory. Items come from more than just storage lockers; the trading post works in the old-fashioned sense of the word, both trading and buying from walk-in customers.

Estate sales round out a good portion of the merchandise, and what can’t be sold in about a month is either dumped cheap or sold on eBay.

Johnson said they also use eBay to price out items before they purchase them. He’s only worked for Alexander for three months, but he said he already feels like family. Each regular becomes part of the family, too, and they all get nicknames. Donnelly’s is “Uncle Bill” and Johnson’s is “Slimly,” named after Adam “Chumlee” Russell from Pawn Stars.

And despite the store’s ongoing search for an identity, what is sure is the sense of family people find.

“It’s kind of nostalgic,” Alexander said. “It puts a smile on people’s faces. It takes them down memory lane.”

Paradise Trading Post is at 1108 E. Clark Ave. in Orcutt. Business hours run Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 3 p.m. For more information, call 361-0160 or visit paradisetradingpost.net.

Biz Spotlight is written and compiled by Staff Writer Camillia Lanham. Information should be sent to the Sun via fax, e-mail, or mail.