[This five-part series profiles local dealers of used goods, in all their rich variety. Others in the series: North Shore Architectural Antiques, Sellers Auction, Retro Antiques and Art in the Alley.]
Judy Okstad stands at the counter of Central Sales, welcoming customers into a three-floor-deep ocean of stuff. Seriously… a lot of stuff.
“There’s a lot to remember where things are,” Okstad says. “When people aren’t in here I do walk around and I look and try to memorize.”
The “handyman’s candy land,” as owner Joel Russell calls it, sells just about everything: tools, boots and shoes, motors, greeting cards, ribbons. The variety is overwhelming. Downstairs: auto exhaust pipes. Upstairs: porcelain figurines.
Okstad just started working here last September.
“I’m retired but I’m just getting some extra hours,” she says. “I am friends with Joel’s mother. We were best friends in high school and I ran into her and she just asked me if I’d like to come down here, and I said sure.”
Okstad says she loves working here.
“I like the people,” Okstad says. “You know, my other jobs that I’ve had, it’s just—you don’t have time to talk to people. This is just nice because there’s all kinds of people that walk in here and most of them are so nice.”
Russell has owned the place for almost 10 years. Before that he worked here full time—“since 1988 … whenever that is.”
“My dad was the owner before me,” Russell says. “He ran it for close to 10 years.”
Russell’s father was a customer at Central Sales before he bought it.
The shop draws customers from all over, according to Okstad.
One such customer is Bob Bilden, a first-timer from Bagley, Minn., about three hours away. He’s in Duluth visiting his cousin.
“He said, ‘That’s the place to go,’” Bilden says. “And they have a little bit of everything.”
Bilden is buying some bearings and tools.
“And I guess my plan is that every time I come to Duluth I will come here, after finding this,” Bilden says. “The moment I walked in the door I said, ‘This is the place to be.’”
Glen Baker, a regular customer for the last 30 years, says you have to check here first if you want something.
“Well, if you walk around and don’t see it, walk around again,” Baker says. “‘Cause there’s just so much stuff … and the other thing is, if you’re in a hurry, this isn’t the place to come.”
Okstad says she comes home with something new every day.
“Last week I bought a drill, and what else did I get? Some hinges and caulk and a caulk gun. That was last week.”
“It goes on and on.”
Both Okstad and Russell banter comfortably with the customers as they come and go.
“It’s fun, every day’s different, you know?” Russell says. “I never know what’s gonna come through the door and who you’re gonna meet.”
314 North Central Avenue
Duluth MN 55807