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Army surplus store aims to outfit customers with fun, practical gear

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Wes Gimlin of Wenatchee looks at tactical vests at D&L Army Surplus in Wenatchee.

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MORE INFO

D&L Army Surplus

D&L Army Surplus

What: Newly expanded location packed with military clothing, gear, furniture and other items.
Where: 801 Benson Way, Wenatchee
Open: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday
Phone: 667-2769
Web: dlarmysurplus.com, and on Facebook (keywords: DL army surplus)

WENATCHEE — How do you transform an old empty warehouse into a first-rate Army surplus store?

First, you “militarize” the walls with 45 gallons of OD (olive drab) paint. Second, you fill the place with thousands of items — ammo, fatigues, helmets, knives, ponchos, trench diggers — many in the regulation colors of camo and khaki.

Yeah, there’s a lot of camo in here,” smiled Dale Launer, who along with wife Sharon owns D&L Army Surplus and its sister business D&L’s RV Center in north Wenatchee. “We look around the country for stuff that’s interesting and different, and a lot of it comes in tactical-ready camo.”

Launer opened the surplus store 18 months ago in a tiny back room next to his RV dealership, but learned quickly from the enthusiastic customer response that he’d probably need to expand sooner than later.

Three weeks ago, he opened the surplus store’s new 5,200-square-foot location in a South Wenatchee warehouse that previously housed the hardware store Fasteners Inc., which moved last year to East Wenatchee.

I’ve had a fascination with Army surplus gear since I was a kid,” said the 62-year-old Launer. “I’d go into surplus stores and be amazed at all the cool stuff you could buy — knives, canteens, gas masks — all the gear that would catch a kid’s attention. I’m still fascinated by it.”

Launer and fellow scouts scour the country for new, used and surplus items. He’s part of a network of other army surplus store owners, dealers and Armed Forces contacts who monitor the flow of surplus military matériel and related non-military items. That ebb and flow varies, he said, depending on military expansion, cutbacks, base closures, gear obsolescence and changing Armed Forces’ policies.

That’s one of the neat things about this business,” said Launer. “You never quite know what you might find next. It’s changing all the time.”

Right now, D&L Army Surplus is packed — but orderly — with inventory that includes bayonets, body armor, medical kits, flags, binoculars, a wide assortment of tactical gloves, parkas, M-65 field jackets (“very popular,” said Launer), lightweight desert boots and other styles, tons of hats, Army regulation wool blankets, coils of paracord, shovels, backpacks, mess kits, bored-out (non-explosive) grenades, gas masks, shovels and clothing (official military items and non-military) for men, women (yes, pink camo) and children (check out the bomber jackets for tykes).

One back room showcases surplus furniture — dressers, tables, trunks — from military bases. Another room is stacked high with ammo cases. “Most are rubber-sealed and waterproof,” said Launer. “You can store all kinds of things in an ammo case.”

And on the RV lot in North Wenatchee, Launer stocks surplus military vehicles such as five-ton, three-axle general utility trucks and transport trailers, some with racks and canvas covers.

Our most popular item?” mused Joe Spears, a longtime D&L employee with the nickname G.I. Joe. “Ammunition probably leads the list. We sell a ton of ammo.”

Which brings up the whole subject of guns … D&L doesn’t sell them because Launer hesitates at the amount of paperwork and regulations. Instead, the store sells a long list of gun accessories, such as holsters, scabbards, scopes, sights, lights, mags and shell holders, cleaning kits and a wall stocked with ammunition.

Want some real fun? Try on a ghillie suit, a full-sized camo outfit made to resemble jungle foliage. It looks more monster-like than official soldier-wear, but Spears said it’s often the gear of choice for military snipers.

Launer said, “This is serious stuff, but it can have a fun angle, too. People buy a lot of military clothing and gear for Halloween costumes. It’s a busy season for us. Kids have fun with it.

He smiled, “But no matter what your age, just about everyone’s a kid when they come into an army surplus store.”

Reach Mike Irwin at 509-665-1179 or . Read his blog Everyday Business or follow him on Twitter at @MikeIrwinWW.

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