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21Country: Pallet sales bolster side-gig economy in Northeast Indiana

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NEW HAVEN, Ind. (WPTA21) - Have you ever wondered where products go when you return them to a store (Hint: not always back on the shelf)?

Or maybe you've marveled at the incredible deal you got on something through Facebook Marketplace.

There are people in 21Country making a business out of liquidated, returned and even used products.

Tucked back in an industrial park in New Haven is a gold mine.

But you have to be willing to dig.

It's where the misfit toys, if you will, end up; they're the items with damaged boxes, sometimes used, but plenty of times brand new that stores can't sell.

"We have all major retailers. Ten plus major retailers on our floor," explained Brandon Tschannen, owner of Appleseed Pallet Liquidations.

Those retailers will sell semis full of items to Brandon Tschannen and people like him.

Then Brandon will sell pallets of store merchandise to customers.

"We attract all sorts of buyers: resellers, personal buyers, kind of a hybrid of both," Brandon went on. "The idea is you're purchasing at a fraction of retail. And what you do with that product is up to you."

Some people have made pallet-buying their side gig.

Others, like Fred Assink, take it beyond that.

Assink and his wife regularly make the three-hour drive from Michigan to New Haven.

They'll check out what Brandon has on the floor, buy as many as ten pallets at a time, stick them on a trailer and head home.

"That's what great about this place. You're allowed to walk around, wander through, take a look at stuff, maybe poke around a little bit. A lot of the other places are, 'quick, grab what you want, without even looking at it,' because there's so many people flooding it, there's no space," said Assink.

Once a pallet has sat on the floor for a few weeks, Brandon will open it up and put everything inside on the "bin sales."

On Saturdays, everything in the bin sales is eight dollars. Mondays, Brandon drops the price to five dollars. Tuesday is three dollar day. And Wednesday, whatever is left is one dollar.

Just like pallets, the bins attract all kinds of customers.

Some buy for themselves and others come to make money.

Some do both.

"I picked one thing up for my grandson's birthday," said Donna Weis, who came to Appleseed Pallets with her daughter. "But everything else's for profit."

Weis will scour the bin sales for toys.

Then, she'll sell what she buys on Facebook Marketplace.

"I look up on the computer and see what they're going for, and then I kind of put my price between," explained Weis.

Jacob Gamble's bet paid off when he started buying from places like Appleseed Pallet.

He now sells his spoils at flea markets around Grant County.

"I do things roughly 50-70 percent of retail. Something that (costs) eight bucks, I can resell it for a lot less than Walmart or Target," said Gamble.

Jacob gambles on the pallets, too.

The best item he's ever gotten is a gaming laptop.

"Yeah, I got a brand new gaming laptop out of the bottom of one of these pallets. $1300 retail. I paid $450 for the pallet," Gamble proudly told us.

But Brandon Tschannen wants to get this across: it's not always gaming computers and iPhones his buyers find in pallets.

Sometimes?

"You might open a box and you could get a used toilet seat."

Still, Tschannen is proud of the business he's started and the side-gig economy he's helped bolster in 21Country.

"We get home, this is what we work on. But we're paying off bills, doing this, doing that. Planned a big trip to Gatlinburg. We're investing it to our family, paying things off. Trying to make our lives better," said Fred Assink.

Krista Miller

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