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Clipboard : Army-navy Stores

July 17, 1991|DALLAS M. JACKSON

Even Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf would be amused.

Long Beach Surplus in Westminster is the kind of quirky surplus store military personnel and civilians alike enjoy rummaging through.

Military service notwithstanding, one has to love a store that carries both 40-millimeter shell casings, dummy hand grenades, ammunition boxes for mortars and insignias emblazoned with peace symbols.

What other store would display a 100-foot boarding net with a stuffed, life-size soldier dressed in battle fatigues climbing it? Or string a khaki and brown camouflage net overhead that stretches 40-feet outward, casting eerie patterns on the floor below?

And you can get dog tags on a whim and have them imprinted while you wait.

The store stocks a lot of the standard military items--fatigues, dress uniforms, flight suits, jackets, belts, boots, patches, insignias, medals and the like, plus green Army bunks, mosquito nets, Med Vac bags, gas masks and fighter-pilot helmets complete with oxygen masks like the one Tom Cruise wore in the movie "Top Gun."

Who buys this kind of stuff?

"All kinds of people--it varies," says Tony Alvarez, the store's owner. "Sometimes it will be a World War II enthusiast. Or someone will throw a theme party where everyone has to come dressed in military clothes. At those parties the host usually gives out dog tags to his guests as name tags."

Any unusual requests or purchases?

"We have furnished props for the television show 'China Beach.' And once we had a man come and buy a big chunk of boarding net. He said he wanted to hang it from his kid's tree house--the kids climbed the net to get in and out of the tree house."

Alvarez is no stranger to the surplus business. One might even say it's in his blood: His father and uncle opened the Army-Navy Surplus Store in the Plaza Historic District in Orange in 1955. Alvarez had been working full time in the family store for 17 years when he bought Long Beach Surplus from a retired Air Force colonel in 1985. The former owner was liquidating his inventory at a going-out-of-business sale when Alvarez introduced himself. A few days later, the two had struck a deal. Alvarez says Long Beach Surplus is, at 25,000 square feet, "probably the largest surplus store in California."

Today the Orange store is run by Alvarez's brother Steve and sister Pat Lueras. Although that store still carries military surplus items, its focus has shifted to camping equipment and work clothes.

Although the two operations are separate, the siblings are supportive of one another-- although every once in a while, a little good-natured rivalry will sneak in.

"They do clothing better," Alverez concedes with a smile. "Camping equipment does well for both of us, but our surplus department is definitely better."

Hours: Both stores: Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Address: Army-Navy Surplus Store, 131 S. Glassell St., Orange;

Long Beach Surplus, 7722 Garden Grove Blvd, Westminster

Telephone: Army-Navy Surplus Store: (714) 639-7910

Long Beach Surplus: (714) 892-8306

Miscellaneous Information: Both stores also sell paint ball equipment.

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