It’s that little store with the painted windows and big yellow sign.
The one you’ve passed, possibly without noticing, a hundred times. Or gone inside about as many times.
What’s up with that?
Ed’s Surplus & Marine in Lynnwood, what else.
At the entrance is a display of military medals and fridges of live bait. The aisles have surprises at every turn: Tactical vests. Jungle boots. Ammo. Army uniforms. A fishing pole made like a pool cue. Women’s novelty T-shirts with “Guilty” across the chest.
There’s really no place in town quite like it.
And soon there will be no place.
For 50 years, the shop has been a fixture on 196th Street SW, near the intersection of Highway 99.
Now the fixtures are for sale.
“This is like losing a dear ol’ friend,” reads a comment on the store’s Facebook post.
The simple metal shelves and racks are plastered with 60-percent-off signs.
Glee doesn’t define the shoppers filling their arms with more than enough socks to survive the zombie apocalypse. Neither does greed.
Some aren’t there strictly to chase bargains. They are there to grab a piece of history at Ed’s.
“It will be missed,” said Mary Harbison, a shopper for 30 years.
She and her husband Larry came in for heavy canvas duffel bags to take hunting.
“Other places don’t have the same stock, the same quality,” she said. “The way they’re made, the materials they utilize.”
She told Larry: “Buy whatever you want.”
He told about a big octagon army tent from Ed’s that he’s been using for decades. “You get things here you can’t get at Walmart,” he said.
There were no Walmarts when Ed Winters and his brother Bob opened a store in downtown Seattle in 1957. Ed opened another location in Lynnwood 10 years later, and it has remained a haven for surplus and outdoors goods.
Ed’s has stayed in the Winters hands since, through four generations. After Ed died in 1969, his son Jerry took over until his death in 2009.
Since then, Jerry’s widow, Donna, and her daughter Cammy and grandson Shawn have been at the helm.
On a recent day, Donna was in the office, crying.
The closing has been difficult, her grandson said. But necessary.
Shawn Winters, 36, has worked at Ed’s since he was 16. He specializes in military stuff.
“It used to be that I could go down to the bases at auctions and it would be me and 30 crusty old guys and we’d all bid happily against each other,” he said.
The rising cost of doing business and declining sales required shutting the doors.
Winters will carry on the surplus legacy started by his great-grandfather. Ed’s will continue through online sales at his home in Lynnwood, through eBay and the store’s website, edssurplus.com.
“I’m closing the store, not the company,” Winters said. “I am not letting the old girl go, and that is the thing I am most proud of in this transition. I can keep the old girl going in a 21st century format.”
It comes with sacrifices.
“I will miss the community center that we are, that place to trade stories. Watching an old guy’s eyes light up when a young fellow actually takes interest and the next thing you know three or four customers are pulled into this beautiful conversation. Those magical moments,” Winters said.
He hopes to create those moments again at a farewell open house on Oct. 27.
Other mom-and-pop landmark stores in the area have closed. A few blocks away, Wight’s Home & Garden, which attracted an army of female shoppers hunting for pretty holiday things, shut down last year. As did A House of Clocks, after more than 54 years in that bright red building on Highway 99.
Winters said Oct. 31 was chosen as the last day in order to equip the Halloween crowd seeking authentic and inventive costumes.
The rest of the year draws the traditional shoppers.
Ed’s has been the go-to for Adam Barnes for fishing gear. The Brier man was stocking up on other things.
“It sucks, but it’s deal time, I guess,” Barnes said.
He picked up a tarp for his boat, gloves and a tactical backpack for his son.
“He always has a problem with his backpacks, so I figure military grade is actually going to stay in one piece for his high school books,” he said. “I don’t really need a compass but we are going hiking with the kids so I can show them how to use it.”
It was a trek down memory lane for Enrique Velasco, 28, of Bothell.
“When I was 10 to 15 I used to come here for fishing gear,” Velasco said. “That was before apps, and the older gentleman had a lot of fishing knowledge and he would help us out with regulations and what gear to use.”
He slowly perused the aisles, filling a basket with items. “I probably won’t use half of it but feel I should still support the business.”
Dan Stauffer has worked at the store for 18 years.
“We made it by selling things that other people couldn’t figure out how to sell,” Stauffer said. “Even my suppliers have said we have strange customers who buy things that don’t sell other places. Odd colors, old-fashioned methods. Fishing changes and camping changes. A lot of people in their 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s want to continue to do things the way they did it and don’t care about any of the newfangled stuff.”
Stauffer has a new job lined up at a fishing supply manufacturer. It won’t be the same.
“Seeing the kids catch their first fish, then grow up and bring their own kids in to catch their first fish has been something I enjoyed the most about this job,” he said.
Party and food drive
There will be a community going away party and food drive from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 27 at Ed’s Surplus & Marine, 5911 196th St. SW, Lynnwood. Guests are asked to bring items for the Lynnwood Food Bank.