Army Barracks, Inc.

MaineList Article: Army Barracks, Inc.

Army Surplus Experience

I hadn’t really spent any time at an Army surplus store before, so I was thrilled to be invited to tour “Army Barracks, Inc.” in Scarborough for an article. This store is only one of a chain of six army surplus stores owned by Steve LoPilato.

Steve LoPilatoSteve has a lengthy working history with military merchandise, with early beginnings starting just after his graduation from the University of New Hampshire. While working in New York City, back in the early 80’s, Steve would frequent flea markets doing business out of the back of his Datsun hatchback, eventually expanding his horizons and building a stronger inventory which he kept in his parent’s basement. With strong family support, he was on his way to a future of providing quality army surplus, with an emphasis on quality customer care.

As the small business began to grow, Steve’s company improvements became more noticeable. Soon, he would take in two desert-camouflaged refurbished bread vans, a vehicle that would certainly raise more attention than the Datsun. And as the progression continued, he found himself moving merchandise out of the basement and into a more suitable warehouse, where he would begin hiring personnel for what would soon become his first brick-n-mortar store on Martha’s Vineyard by the mid 80’s.

Unimog & AirsoftThe Maine store has been around since May of 2002, located right next door to Bull Moose Music in Scarborough. You can see the army green Mercedes-Benz 1963 “Unimog” parked in the lot near the street, adding just a bit more flare to the experience.

As I walked into the store for the first time, I guess my first instinct was to observe the wall of guns. I quickly noticed the orange tips indicating that these were not “real” guns. But what exactly were they? I decided to ask.

“These are Airsoft guns. Replicas of real guns.” Cory, an enthusiastic employee, chimed in to provide some quality answers to a sincere question. “Guns like these might have been used for Police training aids at one time, but found their way to the market, and have now gone public. They shoot these.” Cory pointed at a package of what looked like plastic BB’s.

Now, I had time to look around, picking up prices, and putting my hands on the items to get some kind of idea about the quality. There’s a good mix of authentic army issued, often refurbished surplus, along with less genuine, yet suitable additions to the 30,000+ items in the store’s current inventory. I spent a couple of hours browsing around, taking my time, checking out many things I had never seen before, asking questions whenever I was completely baffled by things as simple as a flask funnel.

Sponsorship Coupon

M.R.E.sBy now, I overheard a customer talking about M.R.E’s. Whatever it was, it sounded delicious according to the customer who I was eavesdropping on. I decided to introduce myself and find out from someone who obviously knows his M.R.E.’s from his C3-P’s and R2-D’s. It all sounded foreign to me.

The customer’s voice chimed in, obviously an out-of-stater, with his southern accent, explaining. “It stands for Meals Ready To Eat. I buy these things all the time, I love em.” The camouflaged Floridian truck-driver introduced himself as “Red” and we carried on our conversation as we strolled through the store. He had all kinds of useful things to tell me about his experiences with other army surplus stores that he frequents from all around the nation.

“I get to travel all over the place, and I stop at places like this everywhere I go.” Red explained. “This place is a bit more upbeat compared to some of the places that I’ve been. Better selection than places even out in California. More clothing too, not geared specifically to one genre either.” They even carry military clothes for children!

He explained that many of the other places would have less lighting too. Probably because the overheads were blocked out by thick canopies of army netting hung from the ceilings, or perhaps because their stores were so small, and packed so tight with stuff that even light itself had difficulty passing through the narrow aisles.

Test-drive the M.R.E.With proper lighting, and plenty of space, this store’s appearance delivers a clean and healthy environment, coupled with friendly people who love their customers. This is a place where just about anyone would feel comfortable shopping.

“The stuff that other stores carry is somewhat different too. I think a lot of places forget about the general public, and tend to focus on one particular area of military, leaving out stuff that might interest other people who have different interests. It’s nice to see the swords for a change.” Red added.

Steve offered me one of these Ready To Eat Meals (M.R.E.) to sample at home. I think there were 15 different varieties available to choose from. I didn’t write em down, but I remember a few of them. Meatloaf and Gravy, Penne Pasta, Spaghetti with Meatballs, Vegetarian, and although I couldn’t find it, was told that they also have Lasagna… I ended up grabbing the spaghetti and intend on trying it this summer when I go camping hoping that it’ll add to my outdoor experience. I guess there’s instructions inside the package, and I was told that everything I need is either included in the package or outdoors. I guess I will need some water, and possibly a rock or something.

Customer BaseThe customers at Army Barracks, Inc. range from World War II Army Veterans to families with small children. “We offer discounts to former or active Military Vets, Police, Fire and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) too.” Steve added proudly.

“Our customer service, help, and support is my primary concern for the business.” Steve’s emphasis was not even needed, it was already clear to me after spending nearly four hours in the store that their customers are regarded as friends. Greeting frequent visitors by name, remembering a customer’s likes and dislikes, understanding and paying attention to their individual needs.

Now that I’ve been to an army surplus store for the first time in my life, I know that I’ll return. There were a few items that I know I’ll be interested in purchasing for myself as the summer season approaches. I’ll also be able to make recommendations to friends for particular items of interests; swords, knives, and even the less obvious items such as the metal flasks for example.


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