Will jail cell help store ‘lock up’ more business?
The Westside's Surplus City Outdoors is, as owner Dave Lippincott points out, in a constant struggle to establish an identity
apart from the big-box stores.
So how many big boxes can boast a World War II tank and a 19th century jail cell outside their storefronts?
The tank has been part of the Surplus City outer décor since 1989, when Lippin-cott made a public event out of rolling the heavy relic from its spot across the street from the store's previous location in the 2400 block of Cucharras Street to the then- new site at 2732 W. Colorado Ave.
The jail cell is the latest addition, at least to the front of the store. Lippincott inherited both conversation pieces when he bought the business from the Chambon family in 1985. Clarion Chambon had bought both items sometime before 1970, but Lippincott doesn't know their history any earlier than that.
Over the years, at 2732, he's moved the cell to different parts of the rear parking lot area, and lent it at times to Territory Days and to Fort Carson (for a promotional event, not to house prisoners of war).
A metal plate identifies the 4 to 5-ton unit as a “Pauly Jail” from St. Louis, Mo. An Internet search shows that the Pauly Jail Building Company is still in business, operating out of Indianapolis and identifying itself as the “the oldest professional correctional facilities contractor in the United States.”
Lippincott's research places his cell's manufacturing date at somewhere in the 1890s. He doesn't know its exact origin. One story has it coming from Colorado Springs, another from Cripple Creek.
But history was not the main reason for moving the jail to better visibility in front of the store. Colorado Springs Streets had nixed the most recent rear-lot location, at the corner of 28th Street and Pikes Peak Avenue, saying it blocked the views of drivers.
Lippincott tried to sell the cell at that point, but an E-Bay effort didn't work out. Stuck with the unit, he decided that “the only place we could put it was in front of the store. So we scraped it and painted it and moved it out there.”
He admitted that when it had been out back, it had been a nuisance at times with transients. “We had trouble with homeless people sleeping in it,” he said. “I think it was probably a good idea we moved it.”
The cell is locked in an open position, so passersby can walk inside and check it out. The unit has two metal beds, one above the other, and cut-outs in the walls where a sink and toilet used to be.
Westside Pioneer articleDo you know the history of Surplus City’s tank and/or jail cell? If so, give us a call at the Westside Pioneer (471-6776).