Doug's Stupid Store: a not-so-'stupid' concept

Posted: March 14, 2012

When the camera appeared, everyone in Doug’s Stupid Store fled. Under duress, employee Darlene Shifflett stocks shelves items at the new discount retailer on Broadway's Main Street. (Photo by Lauren Jefferson)

BROADWAY — Doug’s Stupid Store in Broadway needs a pot-bellied stove and a few chairs for customers to lounge around in. Even on a cold day, the spring sunshine beaming through the floor-to-ceiling glass windows creates a cozy warmth. There’s a good view of passers-by on Main Street and the neatly stocked shelves provide a rotating smorgasbord of conversation starters.

Open since November, the discount retailer with the quirky name already attracts a small, but congenial group of customers who browse through an ever-changing array of foodstuffs, health and beauty items, cleaning products, used clothing and books and produce—just to name a few.
“That’s why they stop and check us out,” says owner Doug Joseph. “If you went down the road and saw a sign that said ‘Stupid Store,’ what would you do?”

“I would stop,” replied his interviewer.

“Exactly,” said Joseph, with a knowing and friendly nod.

There is an alternate version to this story. Joseph, an excavator by trade, ran into slow times as construction dropped off. He made his hobby of buying and selling on the side into a business—Doug’s Discount Store opened last year on a busy corner of Va. 42 and Va. 259 in Dayton.

For several months, as the Dayton store began drawing customers, there was no thought of another business. Joseph and his wife, Sandra, also operate 259 Grocery in Briery Branch. But then Doug’s brother Charlie moved to Broadway.

“He started looking around for something to do,” Joseph said. “He thought I should open another store. I started asking people about what they thought about me opening another store. And they said I was stupid. So I thought, ‘Let’s call it a stupid store.’”

His slogan for the Dayton store—“A little this, a little that”—applies just as well to the stock in his new Broadway location.
Joseph visits trucking company salvage sales as far away as North Carolina, hunting for deals on smashed boxes and containers.

“It’s amazing what this country throws away,” he said. “Just because one corner of a container is busted doesn’t mean the whole container should be thrown away. There’s perfectly good boxes in there that can be sold.”

Those “perfectly good” boxes end up on Joseph’s shelves. And if they’re not pristine, products are repackaged, such as the top brand of laundry detergent that sells for half the price of what it retails for in the brand container at Walmart. He also sells dishwashing liquid in the same way.

“If you bring back the container, I’ll refill it for a dollar less,” Joseph said.

Other popular items, says employee Darlene Shifflett, are cases of water and iced tea, small packages of snack foods and produce.

You never know what people want, she said. “A copper kettle sat here for a long time and then one day, this man came in and really wanted it. He walked out happy.”

The store also sells and trades used bikes.

“That’s a big seller,” Joseph said. “One day, this itty bitty fellow came in, he was about four or five, and he was ready for a bigger bike. He asked me if I’d trade and I said, ‘Yeah.’ His dad was with him and told me it was his idea to come down here and see if we’d do that.”

One benefit of this new store, which was formerly a car detailing business, is its spaciousness. The adjacent bays hold file cabinets, furniture and other large odds and ends Joseph doesn’t have a place for in Dayton.

Volunteer/employee Tommy King has taken charge of this department. In the midst of much joking, it never becomes clear if King is more of a volunteer or more of an employee. But his exact title doesn’t really seem to matter.

“I come down, hang out, do some work around here and he gives me a bottle of water,” King joked.

King says people are trickling in as word gets out. When a truck pulls up, there’s usually a crowd the next day, browsing the shelves and carting off their purchases just as happily as any bargain hunter. And they’ve probably slowed down for a little conversation along the way.

Joseph hopes the store takes off as word gets out. He denies even thinking about opening yet another store somewhere else in the Valley.

“Nope,” he said. “This started out as a hobby, but I think it’s gotten a little out of hand.”

Doug’s Stupid Store, at 212 N. Main St. in Broadway, is open Monday-Friday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. For more information or to ask about whether the store carries a certain product, call 896-2214.

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