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Champaign Surplus closing Downtown location; will open new location this Spring

303 S. Neil Street has been home to Champaign Surplus for the last 35 years, and the store has announced that they will be leaving that location for a new home this Spring. You can see all the information below from their press release, but they’re holding a liquidation sale that will begin February 1st.

From the press release:

Champaign Surplus Begins New Era, Closing Downtown Doors After 70 Years

CHAMPAIGN, IL — Champaign Surplus, Champaign-Urbana’s largest locally owned and operated outdoor store, announced yesterday that it will be closing the downtown Champaign location they have occupied for the past 35 years, and will be opening a new Champaign location later this Spring. The closing will be preceded by an “End of an Era” Liquidation Sale set to begin on Thursday, February 1.

In 2017, Champaign Surplus was awarded “Most Innovative Retailer” by the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance — the nation’s premiere organization of independent outdoor stores and partner industry vendors. This honor came after the launch and rapid year-over-year growth of a successful e-commerce site,, and the implementation of an automatic price matching program in the brick-and-mortar store.

Champaign Surplus made the decision to innovate further by announcing plans to open a new retail concept. Details of this move are still being finalized, and an announcement about the store’s reopening is expected soon.

In a letter to their customers, Dan & Shira said: 

“We are in a unique position to once again transform our business to meet the needs of the current retail environment and best serve our customers and community… Rest assured our new store will be true to our heritage while evolving the concept of what an outdoor store can be.”

The End of an Era Liquidation Sale will start on February 1st at 9am with the entire store marked down 20, 30, 40 and 50% off. The doors will close for good at the 303 S. Neil St. location once the inventory is gone and the sale has concluded. Current gift cards and customer store credits will be honored during the sale, and in the new location.

Shira Epstein commented: 

“We did not make this decision lightly. It been especially emotional for me. I grew up in this business, and that meant being a part of downtown Champaign — even when we were one of only a handful of businesses to remain downtown prior to its resurgence. Our current building has been my home away from home since I was 10 years old. But, I also know that our current plan is going to be a great new era for our business and Champaign-Urbana; and for providing our special brand of the ­­personalized, quality shopping experience. Our customers and local lovers of the outdoors can look forward to a cool new space, similar product mix, and some innovative uses of technology to enhance our specialty outdoor products and customer service.”

Dan Epstein said: 

“The ownership of our business is not changing, and we are certainly not going out of business. We are still the locally owned and operated family business our community has loved and supported over the decades. We are committed to Champaign, and while the decision to leave our current location was not easy, we are excited that our plans will better suit how people like to shop today. While there are many negative headlines swirling around retail of late, our specific market for outdoor and travel gear, fashion apparel, outerwear and footwear is very strong. We are making this move to further highlight our business and connect with more people in our community.”

Founded in 1947 by Leo & Anne Weisel after the end of World War II, Champaign Surplus began as an appliance and Army-Navy Surplus store at 115 S. Neil St. in downtown Champaign. With the addition of camping equipment, workwear and outdoor apparel, the store moved around the corner to 40 E. University Ave. in 1966.

In 1981, Leo & Anne’s daughter and son-in-law, Lynn and Ira Wachtel, purchased the business and became 2nd generation owners. While surplus merchandise remained the store’s roots and important part of the business model, the outdoor side of the business became the store’s passion. By 1983, Champaign Surplus had outgrown its second location, and needed to move to its current, 20,000 square foot location at 303 S. Neil St. in downtown Champaign. The larger building provided much needed space for wide-ranging products that were rising in popularity during that decade.

In 2010, Ira & Lynn’s daughter and son-in-law, Shira and Dan Epstein, took over the business and became the 3rd generation family owners of the enterprise. Dan, whose career had been in finance and accounting, and Shira, whose career had been in graphic design and marketing, revamped the branding of the store, made adjustments to the shopping environment and product mix, and launched an e-commerce site. Over the last 8 years, the store has evolved to focus on outerwear, footwear, travel necessities, and quality fashion and outdoor gear. Champaign Surplus continues to be a pinnacle dealer for top-tier outdoor brands. 

The Champaign Surplus End of an Era Liquidation Sale begins February 1st at 9am, with every item in their stock marked down up to 50%. The sale will conclude once the inventory is gone, and announcements about the new location and reopening will be forthcoming.

Top photo from Champaign Surplus’ Facebook page.

Executive Editor

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