New owners plan to continue traditions at Peace Surplus.
New owners plan to continue traditions at Peace Surplus.
Originally from a suburb of Minneapolis, the Chatinsky family had moved to Tucson when Steve was 14 years old. After leaving Pima Community College, the son joined his father in 1973 to start a Tucson-based electronic and military surplus store, which began with selling vacuum tubes, precious metals, camping gear and bails of fatigue pants in the open market.
The Flagstaff trip opened up new possibilities for the entrepreneurs.
“We drove around with a realtor for a few hours and did not see any properties that were of interest,” Steve Chatinsky recalled. “As we were leaving town, I saw a small sign, ‘For Rent by Owner,’ in the window of 14 W. Historic Route 66. My father said, ‘This is it!’”
At first, Steve thought, “This is an old ugly downtown area, with an ugly building and no one is around,” but then he decided to trust his dad and figured, “He must know something.”
Dad did know best, and the Peace Surplus store the family founded across from the Amtrak Train Station downtown has thrived and grown throughout the years into a very popular, one-stop sporting goods source, beloved by locals and visitors alike.
With a motto of “If it’s outdoors – it’s us!” the Peace Surplus business has been voted the Best in Flag for Outdoor Sports Store since 2005 by the people of Flagstaff and the Arizona Daily Sun.
Even though the store still carries the surplus name, it has evolved into a full-service outdoor camping, skiing, hunting, hiking and backpacking store.
It features top brands for footwear, apparel and outdoor gear, including The North Face, Kuhl, Columbia, Black Diamond, Patzi, Mountain Hardwear, Merrell, Osprey, Prana, MSR, Sherpa and Salomon.
Peace Surplus also maintains a ski shop and a complete summer and winter rental program.
When Al Chatinsky closed the Tucson store in 1992, he retired to enjoy retirement with his wife, Lola.
“Both of my parents lived to see the great success of Peace Surplus,” Chatinsky said. “My dad passed away in 2018, two years and a day after my mom. They had a wonderful love story, a great life, wonderful children and a successful business. In their retirement, they traveled all over the world.”
At the beginning of November, after leading the Peace Surplus legacy for 48 years, four months and 28 days, the younger Chatinsky followed in his father’s footsteps and retired to savor life with his wife, Lyvier.
“The beauty of being retired is that you can have many choices and can pick from what you feel like doing at that specific time,” he said.
Chatinsky has also sold the business to a new family, Erin and Kazi Ahmed.
“I had numerous choices, but after meeting the Ahmed family, I knew they were the right people to continue the legacy of Peace Surplus,” he explained. “They are smart, have a strong work ethic and commitment to the community and customers.”
The heart of the Peace Surplus legacy is “Consistency, great products, fair prices, excellent customer service, appreciation of our customers and, most of all, a strong team,” he said. “I worked hard at hiring a good sales force, providing professional development on customer service, appreciation of our customers and vendors, product knowledge, and giving back to our community.”
That giving back to the community has included establishing a scholarship at NAU to support students studying outdoor recreation and another at Maricopa Community College Foundation to honor his parents’ love for the arts, he said. “We have also had tremendous support from the community when we hold fundraising events either at the store, or in collaboration with other businesses, to support various charities such as Grand Canyon Youth, Kahtoola Uphill and Arizona Special Olympics,” he said.
Chatinsky said he would assist at Peace Surplus for several months to familiarize the new owners with the workings of owning and running an outdoor recreational retail business.
The Ahmed family has lived all over Arizona, but moved to Flagstaff a year ago.
“This will be a family-owned and run business,” Erin Ahmed said. “My husband, Kazi, and I are the owners, and we have our 24-year-old daughter, Jade, and 17-year-old son, Ameer, working with us at the store.”
She said their son Ali, 9 and daughter Ameena, 7, will also lend a hand at the store.
They will be retaining all the Peace Surplus staff, but also will build their own team to ensure the store continues to offer great service and products to customers.
“We have an amazing team that we wouldn’t dream of changing,” she said. “Our hopes right now are that we are able to make the store even more successful than it already is.”
With a background in the mining industry, she and her husband had been looking for a business to buy for a few years, she explained.
“It is such a cool local outdoor gear store,” Ahmed said. “We were even more impressed with the employees at the store, always so friendly and helpful. After we met Steve, the previous owner, we knew the store would be a great fit for our family. We loved that the store had a nostalgic history in our new community, and Steve had done an amazing job supporting the local community over the years. It was just the kind of business we would be proud to be a part of.”
The Ahmed family loves to hike.
“Kazi and I have hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and he has braved Humphrey’s Peak,” Ahmed said. “You can find Kazi and three of our kids up on the mountain every winter snowboarding. Our little kids are involved in swimming, gymnastics, ninja and soccer. Kazi has also coached the kids’ soccer team this past year. We look forward to continuing to explore our new community, and picking up new hobbies that are offered in Flagstaff.”
Chatinsky said the Flagstaff area offers a favorable business environment for both old and new owners like the Ahmeds.
“One needs to be creative and entrepreneurial, and the City of Flagstaff and Coconino County will be supportive,” he noted. “Our citizens are in favor of new businesses that will enhance the lives of all in our community and those that enjoy visiting us.”
In a Peace Surplus Facebook post, Chatinsky looked back on his business career in Flagstaff. “I want to thank all the people in Flagstaff and throughout the world who made Peace Surplus a success and a joy. Family-owned businesses depend on the support of their communities and visitors and you made it happen. Thank you!”
Looking forward to the first of the year, he has new plans, including exploring various opportunities in real estate and the auto industry.
“I also want to mentor new business owners,” he said. “I want to enjoy my passions in life, but at my own leisure. My wife, Lyvier, and I also want to do some traveling around the United States and abroad. And, of course, enjoy fun times with friends and family. Flagstaff is my home, and so I will continue to be an active member of society in Flagstaff and enjoy all that Flagstaff has to offer.” FBN
By Betsey Bruner, FBN