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Hidden In Plain Sight: A Different Kind Of Warehouse Shopping At U-M

Jan 22, 2018

Credit Lisa Barry

Whether you are looking for something new or used, there are lot of shopping options these days.  But one place you may have not known about for a wide variety of used items for sale is “property disposition” on the University of Michigan’s campus.

89.1 WEMU’S Lisa Barry visited the giant warehouse with lots of interesting used items for sale… hidden in plain sight.


Just off Plymouth Road on the north side of the University of Michigan campus is a 15,000 square foot warehouse where used items from dorms, classrooms, research labs, and the University’s Medical Center are for sale.

Credit Lisa Barry

Tom Forest is the operations manager for Property Disposition.  He said the university has been selling and re-purposing old equipment since the 50’s at plant operations and went “university wide" in the late 1960’s.

Credit Lisa Barry

Steve Sinelli has been the warehouse supervisor for the past 40 years.  He says they sell a wide variety of items.

Credit Lisa Barry

Sinelli takes me on a walk through the many aisles of microscopes, computer monitors, books, and previously used U of M research and medical equipment.

An antique chicken incubator up for sale.
Credit Lisa Barry

There are up to 200 telescopes for sale as well as some “one-of-a-kind” items, such as an antique chicken incubator made out of wood selling right now for $250.

Steve Sinelli has been the warehouse supervisor for 40 years. Here he's standing next to an MRI machine for mice.
Credit Lisa Barry

Forest say there is typically a line of customers waiting at the door every day when they open, and U of M students are a big part of their customer base.

Tom Forest, the operations manager of U of M's Property Disposition.
Credit Lisa Barry

He says they also sell to public school systems and charter schools and people who plan to re-sell some items at a bigger profit.

Various books for sale.
Credit Lisa Barry

Among the shoppers on a recent Wednesday afternoon was Pastor Kenneth Tate of Body of Christ International Church in Detroit.  He says he comes once a week to once a month and has been shopping there for about 3 years.

Forest examining the price of gurney.
Credit Lisa Barry

Geoff Mayers works for the ICC student housing co-op, a nonprofit student housing organization in Ann Arbor.  He often shops at the U of M outlet for furniture for the homes they rent.

What doesn’t get sold out of the Ann Arbor warehouse is often sold by sealed bids, on eBay, or at auction. Forest says that’s how they clear out used university vehicles 3 to 4 times a year.

Credit Lisa Barry

Sales for Property Disposition last year totaled just over $3 million, and at least 90 percent of that goes back to the university departments that provided the item for sale.

So whether you’re looking for an antique chicken incubator or a mouse MRI machine, the University of Michigan’s Property Disposition warehouse at 3241 Baxter Road near Plymouth Road is one place to go for sometimes, odd bargains--hidden in plain sight.

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— Lisa Barry is the host of All Things Considered on WEMU. You can contact Lisa at 734.487.3363, on Twitter @LisaWEMU, or email her at lbarryma@emich.edu