Lion Surplus plays key role in Penn State's sustainability mission

John Patishnock
February 17, 2015

Editor's note: This story originally appeared in AlumnInsider, the Penn State Alumni Association's monthly member e-newsletter.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As part of its monthly series, the Penn State Alumni Association spoke with Glenn Feagley, Class of 2001, manager of Lion Surplus. The 20-plus year veteran of Penn State oversees a department that circulates money back into the University — nearly $2.5 million last year. Annette Bottorf, technical equipment salesperson, assists Feagley and is part of a team that regularly picks up equipment from University Park and Commonwealth Campuses.

Formerly called Salvage Warehouse, Lion Surplus sells office equipment, furniture and electronics, and much more. Specifically, this Penn State resource offers online sales and auctions while operating an on-campus location, and reuses and circulates materials all over the world.

The Lion Surplus team makes several trips every week to pick up items and return them to their office, which is located next to the Blue Band Building, bordering the intramural fields on Park Avenue.

Penn State Alumni Association: What are you overseeing at Lion Surplus on a daily basis? What are day-to-day operations like?
Feagley: We have a full-time staff of 11 and five or six students; I don't look at this job as being anybody's boss, I look at it as being the guy who's in charge of making things flow. To me, a good atmosphere and a productive atmosphere is a happy atmosphere, so we try to keep everything upbeat and try to have fun. We get our job done by having fun, and we make sure we're safe, but we try to keep everything upbeat.

Penn State Alumni Association: How does Lion Surplus serve the University mission of sustainability?
Feagley: Our goal here is to keep everything out of the landfill that we can. Within the recycling pyramid, reuse is at the top of that, so our goal is to reuse and put stuff back into the University. Everything we sell puts money back into the University. So that’s our goal, to reuse and we also try to put as much back into the University system as we can, because anytime we put something back into the system, it saves the University from buying something new.

Penn State Alumni Association: To follow up on this, Lion Surplus used to be called Salvage Warehouse. Do you feel that the perception of your department has changed, whereas you’re selling high-quality items as opposed to discarded materials?
Feagley: Definitely. There's more of a focus on sustainability now than ever before, and I think we play an important role. Before, it was whatever you had to do to get rid of it, now I think the lights are shining on us in a good way, saying “Hey, they can help you generate money, because money isn't as easy to come by as it used to be.”

Penn State Alumni Association: How often do you turn around inventory, and what types of items can someone find at Lion Surplus?
Feagley: We always tell people if we don’t have it today, check tomorrow, because we could get it in. We not only support the University Park campus, we also support all the Commonwealth Campuses, including Hershey Medical Center. There are also 67 county-extension offices, all the research agricultural departments; everything funnels through here as far as the reuse part. There’s so much, and it’s important that you move it, because every piece that you sell, you probably have 10 pieces waiting to replace that piece. We have to keep it flowing, to keep room for the new stuff coming.

Bottorf: We're on campus almost every day picking up items, even if it's something small; and two, maybe three times a week, we go to Penn State’s Commonwealth Campuses around the state.

Penn State Alumni Association: Do you notice a change in mindset from your customers? It sounds like the people who visit the store understand the value in reusing items and buying from Lion Surplus.
Bottorf: What’s nice is that a lot of the customers who come in here are proud of what they do with it. They’ll go home and refinish it, and they’ll bring in pictures and show us what they've done. Sometimes we’ll post them on our Facebook page, because it is pretty cool. They’ll come in here to buy and then go home and make it look like it’s a million-dollar piece of furniture, and all they did was maybe slap some paint on it or change it, so they’ve reused it.

Feagley: A lot of startup businesses don't have the money to go out and spend. They don't need brand new file cabinets and furniture, so they can come here and get it cheaper and they can start their businesses cheaper; and once they come here, a lot of times they keep coming back.

Penn State Alumni Association: With Lion Surplus selling items online, how much does having an online presence help the store and make more people aware of your department?
Feagley: Technology has been the driver of that. We used to not have the Web or digital pictures, we were limited to the local community; but now we can post something online that's seen around the world and the sales reflect that. We sell a lot to California, New York, all over the place. It’s helped, and social media has been huge for us. It’s helped us broaden our customer base. I can’t even put a value on that; it’s been significant.

View Lion Surplus’ current online offerings here.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated February 17, 2015