, Corbin, KY


June 23, 2014

Smart Shopping

Smart Shop Salvage Grocery Outlet now open in Corbin

CORBIN — By Bobbie Poynter / Features Editor

Andrew Pennington, 24, born and raised in Corbin, was also born into the retail business, with his parents, Tim and Sarah Pennington, operating the Pennington Block Company. However, the younger son of two put his 2013 Eastern Kentucky University Bachelor of Science degree in General Studies and Business to use helping him burrow his way into the highly secretive underground world of wholesale brokering.

So, what exactly is wholesale brokering? It is buying large quantities of items pulled from the shelf, closeout merchandise, returns, scratch and dents, non-perishable foods, cleaning projects, or international food items and reselling those items for a small profit, but still at a fraction of what the “Average Joe” would pay for the merchandise new.

Pennington explains it like this: “A national coffee chain plans to sell its coffee internationally and overestimates the order. The company, now stuck with truckloads of premium coffee with both English and foreign labels on the packages, can sell them to businesses like mine for pennies on the dollar. It’s still fresh, high-quality coffee, but with the international labels, the company simply cannot unload it.”

Often, Pennington gets merchandise manufacturers send to the store that never even makes it to the shelves, simply because the store changed its mind about selling the product, or canceled the contract. It is brand new, name brand merchandise that has never been out of the box.

“I was brokering wholesale business to business online for about five years,” said Pennington. “Then about a year and a half ago I leased a local warehouse under the name Flying A Closeuts and began the same business-to-business service, except this time on a cash and carry basis.”

But, from the beginning, finding where, how and who to purchase the merchandise from was a daunting task.

“Stores have a strict policy of what they can and can’t sell,” Pennington explained. “I knew the industry existed, but didn’t know how to become a part of it.”

So the future owner of “Smart Shop” put up his own website, drawing in prospective clients, as well as creating a bulk e-mail list of about 200 people and prospective businesses he could find either in the book or on the web — people he felt would have a need for his services.

And sure enough, Pennington’s business began to slowly grow. However, once the budding entrepreneur established a rapport with his own local businesses, sales took off.

Pennington’s wholesale customers include other small business owners, flea markets, and even local food pantries. His customers come from every direction as far north as Cincinnati, south to Nashville, across the state to Western Kentucky and east into West Virginia.

Once Pennington’s wholesale business had taken off, it seemed only natural to take his business one step further into the local retail market.

“The number one reason I went from wholesale to retail is I know, like everyone else does, just how much groceries cost at the store,” said Pennington. “Most are brand new or ready to go out of date, and if I could save people 50-60-75 percent on their grocery bill, it’s a service to the community. Yes, you’re making a little money, but, more importantly, you’re making it easier for people to put food on the table.”

Smart Shop, Pennington’s new salvage grocery outlet in the former Butternut Bread surplus store on Falls Highway in Corbin, is the perfect location, as far as the owner is concerned.

“This being a former surplus bread store has actually helped me in the fact that people have not forgotten the store, and began patronizing the store from day one,” said Pennington. “This is a prime location, and I wanted it to be a Corbin business in Corbin.

“I remember buying an orange pop and doughnut here when I was a kid, and now I own the store. This really means a lot to me.”

As a grocery outlet owner, Pennington is glad that he can give back to the city so near and dear to his heart by helping out the local food banks.

Home is surely where the heart is, and Andrew Pennington has put his heart and soul into his hometown business.

“I always knew I wanted to run my own business, and I’ve always believed in Corbin,” he said. “Corbin holds my memories. My grandfather’s been in business in Corbin since 1956. I hope I make it that long.”

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