Illinois' Champaign Surplus unveils new name and locations

The announcement follows the closure of the 71-year-old store's downtown location.

Champaign Surplus, the largest locally owned and operated specialty outdoor retailer in the central Illinois area, is rebranding and expanding after 71 years in business.

Its name is changing to Champaign Outdoors and its one building will multiply to three, expected to open at the end of May, the owners announced on Facebook on Thursday.

“Brick-and-mortar retail these days is all about the experience,” said co-owner Shira Epstein, whose grandparents founded the store. “We’ve got some exciting plans and ideas on ways to build on our current strengths and what customers love about our store, while making the shopping experience even more unique.”

The owners, Shira and Dan Epstein, are promising that they will stick to Champaign’s well-known heritage, friendly outdoor culture and product mix, while bringing it into the modern day through design and technology.

Two concepts will open side by side at 2017 South Neil Street: Champaign Outdoors, featuring camping and travel gear, apparel, footwear and accessories, and Rugged Outdoors, supporting the company’s eCommerce business.

A 20,000-square-foot warehouse will become the new corporate headquarters, configured to handle a high volume of internet business and incoming product, as well as new finance, customer service and internet-related jobs.

As for the new name, it was changed to better reflect the store’s current products. The store opened in 1947 not long after World War II to offer surplus and military-style merchandise. But sourcing surplus has become increasingly difficult in the last decade, the owners said.

“We love our heritage as a surplus store and are nostalgic about leaving it behind. It was a great part of our business for decades. But, we are simply not able to find quality surplus product to stock our shelves anymore,” said Dan Epstein, co-owner. “The change in our name to Champaign Outdoors not only reflects our current product selection, but also our personal passions for camping, hiking, kayaking and getting people outside enjoying nature.”   

In January, the store announced on its website that it was closing its downtown retail location and customers had been eagerly awaiting Thursday’s big reveal.