ROCK ISLAND — Sincerity is easily woven into the face of Dev DeSplinter as he sits behind a desk at Milan Surplus, looking out at his store and sharing why it’s going out of business.
Mr. DeSplinter offered a number of reasons why Milan Surplus — in Milan for 32 years before moving to 1127 11th St., Rock Island, four years ago — soon will become Midwest Metals and Hardware.
For nearly four decades, Milan Surplus sold hand tools, steel and aluminum surplus, and hardware such as nuts, bolts, washers, screws, rivets and concrete anchors. It also offered miscellaneous electrical supplies, home items and auto and truck gear.
Rock Island’s failed effort to land a Walmart Supercenter hurt, Mr. DeSplinter said. The planned store was one of the reasons he took Milan Surplus to 11th Street four years ago, he said.
“We moved here on the pretense that they (Walmart) were going to be there,” Mr. DeSplinter said, adding he received assurances from Rock Island city officials that the giant retailer was coming.
“’Boom — we are going to increase the traffic on 11th Street by this much,’” he said, recalling what he’d been told.
“Guess what? It didn’t happen.”
The economy, property taxes rising 20 percent over the last four years and sales not increasing with them are some of the reasons the business is closing, Mr. DeSplinter said.
Internet competition from companies selling their own surplus was another strong reason. Yet another factor, he said, was the closure of three firms that supplied Milan Surplus.
A developer from Iowa City is taking over the business, Mr. DeSplinter said. The Milan Surplus building that faces 11th Street in Rock Island, where a lot of the company’s smaller products are, now is for sale.
Mr. DeSplinter, 57, stressed that closing is not what he wants to do.
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“It is heartbreaking that we have to close,” he said. “But it was just the only thing that was left to do.
“It’s actually pretty devastating,” said Mr. DeSplinter who has been with Milan Surplus for 17 years. “We started seeing the writing on the wall about eight or nine months ago and worked through it as best we could.
“It just got to a point where the burden of the situation was more than the thrill of it anymore.”
The first hit, Mr. DeSplinter said, was the recession in 2008 and 2009.
“We tried to downsize at that time,” he said. “In the interim, three of our biggest suppliers (Country Stone, Bar-Jan and Servalite in East Moline) went out of business.”
Milan Surplus once had 10 employees. Now it’s down to two: Mr. DeSplinter and Alice Gingry, who has been with the company 26 years.
Mr. DeSplinter grew up in Hillsdale, attended Riverdale schools and graduated from Sherrard High School.
“It was something that I came into with no background in this, other than retail, and was able to build it into a nice, strong business,” he said.
The store will remain open through April, he said, selling items at 60 percent discount. Whatever’s left, he said, may end up being sold to an auction.
Midwest Metals and Hardware officially begins operation June 1. Mr. DeSplinter will work for the store he used to own. The new owner, he noted, is a land developer and he expects the site to be cleaned up before something new, eventually, is there.
“The name Milan Surplus will be remembered for years,” Mr. DeSplinter said. “It’s just that the surplus has to come out of the name — because there’s no surplus left.”
“We started seeing the writing on the wall about eight or nine months ago and worked through it as best we could.” Dev DeSplinter
“We started seeing the writing on the wall about eight or nine months ago and worked through it as best we could."
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