This is the third in a series of articles that will highlight compelling reasons why all of us here in the Kern River Valley should shop locally. We will also profile local business owners and what they are doing to assure a successful business in today’s challenging economic climate.
Did you know?
When you shop locally, you help to preserve local character. The Kern River Valley is a unique place to live, as well as to visit. History of this area is both colorful and rich, as those of us who were born here, or who moved here later on know so well. It truly is an area unlike any other. By choosing to support locally owned businesses, you help to maintain that unique character and keep our community strong and vibrant.
Joe Ciriello – Golden State Surplus
From his early days spent helping his father, John, with the family fruit and vegetable business in Riverside, Joe Ciriello always knew that he wanted to own and operate his own business.
After serving in the military, going to college and running the family business for a few years after his father passed away, Ciriello had been looking for a way to leave the big city behind. In 1986, he discovered that a small store front business was for sale in the Kern River Valley. He recalled, “It seemed like a golden opportunity.” That business was the old Golden State Army Surplus Store. At that time the business was located at the other end of Lake Isabella. A couple of years and one location change later, Ciriello and his bother, Dan, happened to be driving down Lake Isabella Boulevard and saw that the old Cornet store had closed shop. The two brothers were quick to take action and not long after had a signed lease. They opened up for business on Super Bowl weekend in 1998 and haven’t looked back since.
The business, which has remained at that location since then, has undergone some major changes. You’ve heard of people going around, over or even under a wall to get what they want, but the Ciriello brothers took a different tack. They moved the wall, literally. As their business grew and they began to carry more and more merchandise, they simply moved a freestanding wall further and further back to accommodate their need for more space. What started as 1,200 square foot business, grew to 3,000 and then finally to 8,200. Not bad for a couple of kids who started off selling produce to passing motorists.
Today, Golden State Surplus sells a huge variety of merchandise; from camping equipment and army surplus, to some of the best known brands of clothing in the industry. In fact, clothing sales account for 90 percent of the business these days, way up from the 30 percent when he first took over in the late 1980’s. It’s not surprising then that he is in the top five in sales for Wrangler products amongst local independent businesses in Kern County.
Speaking of Wrangler, one of the best kept secrets in the valley is that the Ciriello’s have a lovely lady named Paula Prince in their employ who guarantees that she can find a pair of jeans that are guaranteed to make any woman look great, “No matter what size or shape.” She added “Six foot tall or five foot two, long stride, short stride, doesn’t matter, Wrangler makes a size for every woman!”
In addition to the famous Wrangler line, Golden State Surplus also sells Carhartt, Dickies as well as many other well known brands. As for shoes and boots, they’ve got all the names and prices that everyone is looking for as well; Converse, Red Wing and Georgia Boot to name just a few.
Ciriello also carries a huge assortment of what he calls “Chachkas”; gadgets, gizmos, pouches for just about anything, military paraphernalia, compasses, watches, wallets, knives and flashlights. You name it, they’ve got it. And if they don’t, Ciriello will do his best to get it. If you have ever wanted to see a bunch of grown men looking like kids in a candy store, you’ve come to the right place. All this makes it the perfect place to take the kids to do some shopping for something dad would really love to get this Father’s Day.
When asked what he attributes the success of his business to, Ciriello stated, “We give an honest deal, try to provide good service and see that the customer is satisfied.” As for competing with the big national chains in Bakersfield, Ciriello stated, “We appreciate people giving us a chance to prove that we have the merchandise and the prices they’re looking for. “We guarantee everything we sell. As a result, we have a lot of loyal customers.” He also added, “If know a store down there is selling something for much less than I can afford to sell it, I’ll tell you.”
Ciriello has enjoyed living in and operating a business in a small town. He believes that it is important to give back to the community and has served as President of the Kern River Valley Chamber and is currently the President of the Kern River Valley Collaborative. Like many other business owners in the valley, he has also supported Little League, AYSO Soccer and the FFA.
Reminiscing, Ciriello mused “I remember when I first opened over 20 years ago, people would bring in their little kids to get them their first pair of Wrangler jeans in size four. Now those kids are all grown up and they’re bringing in their own little kids for their first pair of size four Wranglers. That’s really nice to see.”
Drop by and see Joe, Dan and the rest of the gang at Golden State Surplus at 6112 Lake Isabella Blvd in Lake Isabella or give them a call at (760) 379-8614. You’ll be glad you did.
PHOTO BELOW: Joe Ciriello strikes a familiar pose at the counter of Golden State Surplus, where Ciriello says he has seen an increased demand for more high-end gear and equipment as needs of visitors and locals change. Administrator, KRVR.org email@example.com
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