Shoppers find surprises amid 30,000 items at Normal outlet store | Local Business

BLOOMINGTON — Browsing at Bargain Time Bins of Bloomington reminded one customer of the famous Forrest Gump quote about life being like a box of chocolates.

“You never know what you’re going to get,” recited Tanya Boitnott of Bloomington while assembling a Fisher-Price pirate ship she planned to bring home to her kids.

Watch now: Bloomington-Normal shoppers bewitched by Small Business Saturday offerings

She and a few dozen other shoppers were at the Crossroads Center store, at 474 Wylie Drive in Normal, for restock day on Saturday morning.

Co-owner Cole Thompson said that’s when his store reopens for the week with their bins filled with items acquired through liquidation sales from large retailers.

His mother, Penny Thompson, is the store manager. She said they’re expecting a lot stuff to come in as retailers clear out overstock and returns following Christmas.

It’s not your average shopping experience: Penny and Cole both call it a “treasure hunt.”

Stores typically stock their wares on shelves for visibility, but this shop piles products in bins that customers dig through.

It’s a mixed bin of products that can be found at Bargain Time Bins of Bloomington, located at the Crossroads Center in Normal. Pictured on Saturday are discounted homewares, such as pillows, apple slicers, air filters and more.

Brendan Denison

Many boxes have already been opened, some are damaged, and others unlabeled. Customers are encouraged to inspect and test items in front of a store employee to make sure it’s in working condition before they buy.

“The whole thing is the mystery of never knowing what you’re going to find,” said Cole.

Moving hands

All items have a set price, which drops by the day from $7 each on Saturday to $20 for filling a large bag on Wednesday.

Penny said one woman found facial cream on Saturday that was valued at $127. She also had Ivanka Trump-branded shoes on sale, which Penny said were originally priced at around $200.

Cole advised people to get there early for the high demand items, like Apple electronics.

“There’s a lot of hands moving,” he said of restock day. “Not many people are going to pass up a $400 iPad.”


Penny Thomspon, left, store manager for Bargain Time Bins of Bloomington, located in Normal, checks out items for John Wheeler.

Brendan Denison

Cole said the longer stuff sits in the bins, the more people will see it and grab the better bargains.

He added there are still good things to buy throughout the entire week, and they always sell out with their fill-a-bag sale.

Coles said he teases each week’s new items with Facebook live videos that get lots of engagement.

“It kind of sets the pace for what week is going to be like,” he said.

Family fun

Penny said they’ll have as many as 30,000 items in the store as one time. They could be big items, like furniture or home appliances.

Then there’s also novelty miniature clothes pins or a tiny cellphone that peaked the interest of Hudson’s Jim Lavender.


Jim Lavender of Hudson checks out a tiny cellphone Saturday at Bargain Time Bins of Bloomington, located at the Crossroads Center in Normal.

Brendan Denison

It was his first time at the store. He said he dropped by while in town to run errands, and his buddy comes often.

“It’s really cool,” Lavender said. “You don’t know what you’ll get.”

Melanie Russell, of Chicago, said she’s found many items there, like a robot vacuum cleaner. They’re purchases she said she wouldn’t make without the bargain pricing.

Russell said she goes with her boyfriend, telling him: “Just grab everything you find and we’ll figure it out later.”

Normal’s Christine Huggett said the set pricing is nice. She also likes the mystery as well.

“You’re finding things you didn’t think you need,” she said.

Her haul of the day included Christmas decorations, solar lawn lights, and shelf organizers.

Brittany Scybert, also of Normal, found some holiday lights too, plus baby products for her twins.

“It’s a money-saver, for sure,” she said.

Watch now: Bloomington Holiday Expo kicks off Christmas shopping season

Two customers told The Pantagraph most of their holiday shopping was done in the bins.

Boitnott said she found a “Nightmare Before Christmas”-themed tree skirt, and then she did her “happy dance.”

Also at the store, father Tony Kashner said: “Dad wouldn’t have been about to do Christmas if we didn’t do this.”

Digging through bins is a family affair for the Stanford dad. His daughter said she found Lucius Malfoy’s wizard wand from the “Harry Potter” series.


Khloe Scheets, 12, checks out a discounted sewing machine Saturday at Bargain Time Bins of Bloomington. She plans on helping her grandmother make oven mitts.

Brendan Denison

Kashner also brought his mother’s adopted daughter with him. Khloe Scheets, 12, said she picked out a sewing machine to help her grandmother make oven mitts with.

“I thought it would be fun,” Scheets said.

Katie May of Normal was there with 17-year-old son Taylor Kelly. She said he typically finds video game items, and searching the bins is his “favorite thing to do with his mother.”

Kelly said he scored a $200 Xbox One controller, and his mother said she’s gotten $100 Asics running shoes.

Watch now: Jaycees Christmas Parade spreads joy across Bloomington-Normal

Bloomington’s John Wheeler bought several items on Saturday, including a Wi-Fi-router, a 3D printer pen, and a leg massager.

Wheeler said that four months ago, he started reselling the items he buys at a bargain and has been gaining a lot of traction.

One big sale he said was Kobe Bryant jersey that went for $250.

He’s hoping to go full time with reselling in a few months.

Contact Brendan Denison at (309) 820-3238. Follow Brendan Denison on Twitter: @BrendanDenison