By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
Need a bicycle? The County Store's got racks of them. Schwinn, Hunter, Raleigh, Murray, Boss Cruiser (a "comfort bike, for people with buns like mine. Don't print that," says Ford) -- you name the brand, they've got it.
"Since we reduce the price of everything until it sells, if we have a doubt about what an item is worth, our price might start out a little bit high," Ford admits, scanning the two-wheelers' tags. "It's always lower than what you'd pay somewhere else, but sometimes not that much lower. This bike here," she says, examining the tag on a Schwinn Super Le Tour in what looks to be very good condition (dusty, but apparently mechanically sound), "started at $149. Now it's $108. For a very nice bicycle. Make a nice Christmas present."
As would much of the County Store's wares. Nintendo machines, fourteen dollars. Bins full of watches priced from one to fifteen dollars. New (still in the box) barbecue grills, $29. A Kenmore microwave oven, $49. A Sears compact stereo with AM/FM receiver, dual cassette deck, turntable, and equalizer, $39 A elegant Formica-finished display rack included!
Dozens of typewriters, from decrepit old IBM Selectrics to sleek Xerox Memorywriter 6010s start at $30. ("They may look like junk, but we sell a lot of them for parts," responds Ford to a comment on the weathered-looking state of disrepair into which many of the machines have fallen.)
TVs? You want TVs? The County Store has a twenty-inch RCA for $129 and a nineteen-inch Sony Trinitron for $19 (a dollar an inch!). You figure out the disparity. Pick up a brand new Genie screw-drive garage- door opener for $125, a Weed Eater for $29 (a Black & Decker version of the same tool is priced at ten dollars less, while a heavy-duty Homelite model sports an asking price of $99).
But wait, there's more! Typewriter ribbons. Copy-machine toner. Automobile engine blocks. Videotapes: Purple Rain, In the Heat of the Night, and that ever-popular trilogy, The Best of Dark Shadows, The Best of Barnabas Collins, and The Resurrection of Barnabas Collins.
The list goes on and on. An EICO 1030 computer backup power supply for $55. A wide range oscillator, $39. A Phone Mate answering machine, fourteen dollars. A primitive Craig "microcassette" player/recorder the size of a large shoebox (no price marked). Calculators, three to ten bucks. A Juliette AM/FM eight-track stereo with turntable, nineteen dollars.
For a paltry $47, no home should be without a test-tube centrifuge. Or a six-dollar lifetime-certified, jewel movement Tycos sphygmomanometer. Sierra T1 spanning repeaters sell for fourteen dollars; prehistoric 16mm projectors will set you back anywhere from $34 to $69. Manual punch-in time clocks, $29. And you can make off with an entire case of twelve-ounce bottles of Vidal Sassoon clear body finishing rinse for eight bucks.
They got your eighteen-inch gas oven lines for $4, Sloan valves (two for a buck), a $29 porcelain sink, and a $19 toilet bowl. A Baldor industrial motor chugs in at only $95, old-fashioned PA systems and police dispatch radios for $42. Or maybe you need some tile -- the County Store offers Colormassa Italian tiles at twelve dollars and up per 27-piece box.
Even if Ford's bike idea doesn't spin your gift-giving wheels, the County Store can be a savior during the holiday shopping season. Imagine the delight on your loved one's face when he or she unwraps that Yanni CD, coral bracelet, JVC remote control, or the ultimate present for the party animal in your life: an authentic blood-alcohol Breathalyzer sent over from the Metro-Dade police department's narcotics division (you might want to replace the yellowing plastic breathing tube; the mouthpiece has been thoroughly chewed).
As you might expect from a government-run enterprise, the County Store imposes a lot of rules on shoppers. Most of them are scribbled on makeshift signs strategically located to ensure the least visibility possible: No smoking. All sales cash and carry. No deposits, no holds. Shirt and shoes required. Checks accepted with proper ID. Cashier reserves the right to refuse to sell any item he/she feel [sic] is mis-marked. No pets. Items without prices will not be sold. If you have seen an item which you feel is priced too high, stop back at a later time. We periodically mark down the prices of our merchandise. Prices are non-negotiable. All items sold as is. No refunds or exchanges. No guarantees.
Caveat emptor, in other words. But with a twist: in many cases the County Store will let you test an item on the premises before you pay for it. "If you want to buy a car stereo, we'll let you bring the car and hook it up to see if it works," explains Ford. TV sets, radios, typewriters, calculators, telephones A the County Store will gladly let you perform a test run if you bring your own cables, wires, speakers, and accessories. Just don't expect a lot of help setting everything up.
No, the County Store is not for the shopper who needs a lot of hand-holding. There's no knowledgeable salesman to guide you through the pluses and minuses of, say, the 300-amp Hobart 220-440 volt welder compared to the 400-amp, 230-460 volt model. Or to demonstrate the FATS (Firearm Training System) or the Kango Impact Hammer Drill or the heavy-duty inboard boat motor in the shipping crate. And don't expect a lot of help with the Ingersoll-Rand air compressor, the Deutz diesel engine, or the Sioux steam cleaner. It's a pretty safe bet, though, that the warranty on the 100-year-old Excelsior twenty-inch drill press has expired.