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BOOTS, BAGS SNAPPED UP FAST AT HAFB MILITARY-SURPLUS STORE

SHARE BOOTS, BAGS SNAPPED UP FAST AT HAFB MILITARY-SURPLUS STORE

Please excuse the manager of the base's new cash-and-carry store if she doesn't return your phone call right away. It's all she can do to keep the shelves stocked.

The military-surplus outlet opened two weeks ago and already has sold $40,000 worth of supplies. More than 2,000 people mobbed it on grand-opening day."It goes like gangbusters around here at certain times of the day," said manager Shirley Endo.

The store, one of five in the West, lets the federal government clear its shelves of unwanted materials. Truckloads arrive weekly at Hill.

Much of the surplus is slightly used, like the hundreds of arctic sleeping bags on sale this week, but other materials are new, such as the 2,000 pairs of combat boots.

Whichever, low prices are driving interest. The sleeping bags, for example, are ones used by soldiers in arctic weather. They cost $20. Newly arrived 10-man tents, hard to find anywhere, are only $250. A hundred more things, ranging from camouflage clothing to refrigerators, have price tags tempting to any garage-sale junkie.

Bases have always sold the surplus through auctions. But military downsizing forced the government to expand its customer base; thus the store at Hill and dozens like it from Ohio to California.

It's the first time the general public can capitalize on their government's immense buying power.

The auctions kept the ordinary consumer away since they couldn't afford to buy in huge lots, the only way surplus is sold to the highest bidder.

"Who wants 500 pair of size 7 extra-narrow boots anyway?" said Carol Simpson, who is in charge of publicizing the store openings.

At the cash-and-carry store, customers can buy just one pair.

Endo says Monday and Friday are the busiest days, drawing more than 500 people. The hottest sellers?

"We've pushed a ton of military desks and file cabinets through here. People like the heavy-duty feel of them. And we can't keep refrigerators in stock - I guess that's what happens when they're only $15."

The store is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Endo said base officials are considering extending the hours to 6 p.m. For more information call 777-6558.