116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
HIAWATHA - It might make some people ornery to work with their family members.
But not so in the Schorg family. Parents Dawn and Rob work day in and day out with their adult children, Trevor and Brittany, in their new retail venture Ornery Octopus Surplus and Liquidation.
The store - open every Thursday through Sunday - takes in overstocked items from big-box retail stores that Ornery Octopus then sells for half the retail price.
'We get a little bit of stuff from everybody,” said Dawn, noting that all merchandise is new and they are not a thrift store.
You can find a variety of items, from office supplies, toys and pet supplies to snacks, some groceries, health and beauty items, hardware and clothes.
They also stock seasonal items, such as Easter-related products.
'It's like a big treasure hunt because you don't know exactly what we are getting in and that can be a lot of fun,” she said.
Each family member has a key role to play in the business. Rob takes on the task of tracking down bargain merchandise, frequently purchasing through auctions. Dawn is the face customers see working at the store most often.
Trevor is in charge of receiving and inventory, as well as social media efforts. Brittany helps out wherever she's needed and her schedule allows.
'Rob spends a lot of time getting the best deals we can with the best products. It keeps our prices down, but it is time-consuming,” Dawn said.
'These guys don't like to talk on the phone or do that kind of stuff, but I could never sit behind the computer and do what Rob does or go out and move the pallets like Trevor does.
'We each have our strengths and we pull them together to keep going and moving forward and find more deals. This is definitely a family thing, and I really think that is a plus.”
Because they all fulfill different roles, they all have found different parts of the past year most fulfilling.
'I've always enjoyed the behind-the-scenes work back in the warehouse, moving around pallets and now I get to take charge of all of that stuff” Trevor said.
'And we are saving people money and that feels really good, too,” added Rob.
Saving money on merchandise is what inspired the venture to begin with.
The idea for the store goes way back, in fact.
'It's kind of a thing that Rob and I have always wanted to do, it's always been in the back of our minds,” Dawn said.
She explained that Rob grew up shopping at surplus stores with his mother, who was raising him on her own and trying to stretch their dollars.
'Then when I started dating Rob, I would go with him and his mom and she would take me to all these different bargain stores,” Dawn said. 'It was really exciting to me.”
She added that she and Rob got to talking to their own children, now both graduated from high school, more seriously about the idea of opening their own store.
'Rob was like, if we're going to do it, let's just do it and see what happens.”
The couple also operates additional businesses, including Czech Feather and Down, so they had some retail experience to back up their new venture.
'This is something we want to build for our kids to take over completely at some point,” Dawn added.
The store has been open for one year - as of March 5.
'There were so many obstacles to getting going,” said Rob, noting that they opened just before the pandemic took hold and then also faced the impact of the derecho.
'It just seemed like everything was against us right away and I don't think we have ever able to reach our full potential yet,” he said.
They pivoted much of their business to Facebook, a resource they continue to rely heavily on to promote what they currently have in stock.
Soon, the Schorgs realized they needed more space. They recently settled into their new location in Hiawatha that allows more showroom and warehouse space, from 2,400 to 7,500 square feet.
'We moved everything in two weeks' time and had everything set up within a month,” Dawn recalled. 'And now we have lots of room to work with.”
As for the name, there's no fun story behind it other than being catchy and grabbing attention of potential customers.
'It's just unique,” Dawn said. Kind of like the store.
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At a glance
' Owners: Dawn, Rob, Trevor and Britney Schorg
' Business: Ornery Octopus Surplus and Liquidation
' Address: 760 Kacena Rd., Hiawatha
' Website: facebook.com/getornery