Photo: Nick and Sarah Burtram host a grand opening for their store Buddy Bins, located at 105 Sutton Bridge Road in Rainbow City. (Submitted photo)
By Emma Kirkemier, News Editor
Nick and Sarah Burtram are bringing the bin business to Rainbow City.
The couple’s business Buddy Bins opened at 105 Sutton Bridge Road on March 10. Nick and Sarah are 2016 and 2018 graduates of Ashville High School, respectively, and both performed in the Gadsden State Show Band.
The two owners’ concept is simple: purchase large pallets of merchandise from liquidation warehouses — merchandise usually consisting of returns to large corporate retailers like Amazon — and sell the items individually at discounted prices.
“We get it from various stores like that, and then we sell it for a certain price per day, starting at $8 and then working its way down throughout the week,” Nick said.
Buddy Bins is freshly stocked on Friday, when the price per item is $8. Saturday’s price goes down to $6, then Monday to $4, Tuesday to $3, Wednesday to $2 and Thursday to $1. The store is closed on Sunday.
The tricky thing about liquidation merchandise, the Burtrams said, is that they are unfamiliar with the content until it arrives.
“It really just varies week to week,” Sarah said. “We’re not really going to know until that shipment comes in, because it really is a mystery even to us what we’re getting. We don’t know what we’re buying until we get it.”
According to Sarah, however, that variety characterizes the appeal of bin stores.
“It’s a big treasure hunt,” she said, and her husband agreed. “To sum it all up, it literally is a treasure hunt,” he said. “You come in here and you look through a bunch of stuff, and some stuff isn’t worth what the dollar day is, but then at the very bottom you could find something that’s worth $300.”
The Burtrams distribute items throughout the store’s namesake bins, awaiting customers to discover their hidden gems. The thrill of discovery is not reserved solely for the customer, however; the owners find items in their stock, even days after the merchandise has been loaded into bins, that they did not know they had.
“I will tell you, I have touched everything in this store, and I can only name a select few things,” Sarah said.
“And on top of that, we’ve stocked every single one of these bins, and we can still walk up to a bin and see stuff we didn’t know we had,” Nick added.
The Buddy Bins building is filled with containers stacked with merchandise. The fragile items are removed from the general bins and displayed on a rack at the back of the store. These are glass items, dishes and other breakable materials.
Meanwhile, the distinctive blue bins hold everything from children’s toys to home decor to tools to diaper bags. Valuable finds have included name-brand shoes, sprinklers, comforters, Amazon Echos and other electronics.
“Whenever people try to ask us what kind of stuff we have, I literally can’t say,” Nick said. “I have to say, ‘a little bit of everything.’”
He joked that the store is currently overstocked with packages of zip ties, which came by the hundreds in one fateful shipment and are being sold for $1 each, regardless of the day’s fixed price on other items.
“This is people’s hobby,” Sarah said. “Everything in this store, it’s all ‘wants,’ so everybody is spending their fun money, basically, on this type of stuff.”
While both are new entrepreneurs, Sarah has several years of experience in the bin business.
“I worked over in Bargain Bins (in Gadsden) for two years,” she said. “I was assistant manager, and then I just found a passion for this type of stuff. [Nick] is actually letting me follow my dream and making it his.”
Sarah enjoys the variety in her work, as well as the process itself.
“There’s something about seeing the store empty out every week, like all the products gone, and then it refills every single week,” she said. “It’s cool to watch, and no day in this store looks exactly the same.”
Both owners agreed that launching Buddy Bins has taught them a lot about the world of retail.
“I would have never thought that I would be a business owner,” Sarah said. “If you would have asked me last year about this, I probably would have told you that you were crazy. So this has been a real learning experience for me, on the business side of things, where before I was just managing.”
Nick noted that getting started was the hardest thing they had to do.
“I think the challenge we’re at now is really just ordering the merchandise,” he added. “That is one of the hardest parts about it, is inventory. We’re going to try and get between 24 and 26 7-foot-tall pallets of merchandise at a time. That should last us two weeks.”
Physically unloading the merchandise, as well as keeping track of it, presents a unique challenge that is sometimes just as unpredictable as the items themselves.
“It doesn’t need to go unsaid that we have a lot of family that have helped,” Nick said.
The store has received much family and church support, the latter coming from the Burtrams’ home church of Goldenrod Avenue Baptist in Gadsden.
The journey to opening day began months ago, when the couple first decided on the concept of their business.
“We started the idea back in August,” Sarah said. “But we really didn’t get to start renovating, of course, until we got here in January.”
Buddy Bins currently employs only Nick and Sarah Burtram — “It’s all us,” they said.
“Since being in college and in band together, we haven’t really had a hobby together,” Sarah said. “So it’s cool getting back into something together like we used to. It’s cool making it a hobby together, but it just so happens to pay the bills. We’re both passionate about this right now; this is what we enjoy doing.”
Contact Buddy Bins at 256-438-5344.