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Colony Trading Co., Inc: Turning Problems Into Profits

by Lindy Regan

     Sometimes things really do fall off a truck or a leaky warehouse roof soaks a stack of shipping cartons, leaving their contents high and dry. A hot product might cool down overnight or update its label the day after a store has restocked it to the rafters. In all these cases and more, someone is left with a lot of perfectly good products that can no longer be sold or utilized within their intended market. What’s to keep derailed or slightly damaged merchandise from going to the landfill or gathering dust on a company’s valuable square footage? How can losses be minimized or turned around? Where would you even begin to try to locate someone who could benefit from the very thing you’d like to be rid of? Who are you going to call? Colony Trading, that’s who!

     Stuart Whitehead and Tim Lewis are the salvage and liquidation specialists of Colony Trading who can turn mistakes, misfortune, and miscalculation into monetary gain by matching orphaned and overstock merchandise and commodities to ideal alternative markets.  “We’re opportunists and we solve problems,” says Tim. “We buy closeouts, end of season goods, irregulars, customer returns; we buy damages. We don’t buy office furniture. We don’t buy used stuff. And we don’t liquidate estates,” adds Stuart, sounding as if he has answered that inquiry quite enough times.  Other than that, there is almost nothing they will not try to re-purpose and resell.  When Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines erupted in 1991, Colony bought the entire inventory of the PX at Subic Bay Naval Base, dusted off the volcanic ash, and set up a stateside retail store for six months. “We’ve bought everything,” says Tim, “Televisions, bicycles, washers and dryers; fifty trailer loads of Chinese food; twenty trailer loads of decorative brass. I’m picking up three trailer loads of luggage tomorrow.”

“And there’s an army of people out there looking for merchandise,” continues Stuart. “I’m dealing with a guy right now who has three things in his warehouse: paper, drums of corn syrup, and plywood. I’ve got customers for all three. We know a little bit about everything and at least somebody in each line of business.

     Colony Trading began as a paper salvage company, and continues to profit the environment as well as its customers by engaging in a business that is at its core conservationist. “We try to keep it in the system,” says Stuart. A standard roll of 55-inch newspaper stock with one inch of damage around the edge can be cut down and turned into two rolls of 27-inch insert paper. A piece of heavy earthmoving equipment with a burned-out engine still has valuable parts that can be resold and put back to work. Virtually everything that Colony buys and sells is being spared from unnecessary destruction.


     Yet in some cases the destruction of property is necessary to comply with safety, trade, or brand protection requirements, and Colony Trading is occasionally called on to take things out of circulation. A hospital had to claim a significant loss on operating room supplies when its climate control system failed. Rather than risk the danger and liability of those items reaching a secondary market, Colony was hired to dispose of them. Likewise, when counterfeit or damaged brand name goods turn up at the port or on the market, Stuart will take them to a contact with a very effective shredder while an insurance representative videotapes the event. “Ralph Lauren doesn’t want to see his blouses selling at the Englishtown flea market for two dollars,” he explains.


     The vision and creativity with which the men of Colony Trading conceive, negotiate, and orchestrate all these connections is uncanny; their enthusiasm for what they do is apparent and infectious. “It’s a fun business,” says Tim. Stuart concurs: “To have an occupation where you look forward to going into work every day—this is joy.  And I do. Not that there aren’t tough moments, but I’ve never dreaded one day coming into work.” Both Tim and Stuart credit retired partner Bernie Katz with creating a workplace that not only enabled them to be there for all the important moments in the lives of their children and families but insisted on it.

Businesses in Raritan Center that have surplus or damaged merchandise or materials they would like to liquidate are encouraged to contact Colony Trading at 732-225-9333. Every six weeks they participate in a public auction as an additional selling method.  And anyone is welcome to stop by the company’s warehouse at 66 Mayfield Avenue to see what’s in store for individual sale on any given day. It might be clothing or comforters, car seats or spices, paper goods, gas grills or electronics. You just never know. But it’s always an adventure.

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