There are thick plastic drapes that you have to push aside to enter the UNC Surplus Store, a squat building located at 846 Estes Drive Extension. But what magical things await you behind that vinyl curtain.


If you haven’t been, the UNC Surplus store is worth the trip. It’s cash only, and it contains literally every single item that UNC has outgrown or no longer uses — at ridiculously cheap prices. On my last trip, I found:

  • Construction paper
  • Microscopes
  • Computers
  • Projectors (to show movies outside!)
  • All sorts of nice wooden furniture
  • About 1,000 foam fingers

They have medical equipment. They have marching band uniforms. They have false teeth and calculators and binders. I got a deluxe Steelcase desk chair for seven bucks. They have exercise equipment and ovens and weird posters and underwater treadmills and strange steel bookcases and computer monitors. If you’re looking for kids furniture or 8,000 golf pencils, they’ve got your back.

Most people I talk to have no idea this magical place exists. They’re open 8-4, with the exception of a 30-minute break for lunch.

Melody Kramer is a Peabody-award winning journalist whose work has appeared on NPR and member stations around the country, as well as in publications ranging from National Geographic to Esquire Magazine....