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As seen in the field

September 01, 2003

Tom Forquer

The South Coast Army and Navy Surplus store holds a niche in the

market that shows no fatigue.

"We've got so many odd items that you can't find anywhere else,"

store owner Michael Sherman said of his eclectic selection, which

includes portable toilets and flame-proof hoods.

At the start of the war with Iraq, Sherman said he sold a lot of

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gas masks, chemical equipment and survival equipment.

The occasional earthquake or military actions, such as the war,

spur people to buy from the West Newport store, Sherman said, but the

staple of his 25-year-old business has been military apparel and

accessories.

"Camouflage clothing [is] always popular, always in style," he

said.

Often stereotyped as the uniform of gun-toting rednecks, the

clothing designed to be inconspicuous is frequently seen in high

fashion.

"It has less to do with war and more to do with it being

utilitarian and hip," said Rose Apodaca Jones, an editor for Women's

Wear Daily.

For those looking for utility, South Coast has a wide array of

patterns.

"All the way from Vietnam to the Gulf War," Sherman said, pointing

to tiger-striped pants sitting next to digital-patterned pants, the

new pixilated camouflage of the U.S. military.

"A lot of the stuff we get is being re-manufactured," Sherman

said.

Other popular items include military bags, many of which are

manufactured by Fox Outdoors, which makes a whole line of military

replicas.

"The thing with camouflage is that, even though it is not used in

every army in the world, it does provide a sense of globalism,"

Apodaca Jones said.

A collection of international military shirts, such as the

palm-patterned shirt of Rhodesia, are on display, but not for sale.

In a business that relies largely on consumers' concern for

survival, seasonal trends and the fickle tastes of fashion, Sherman

said that the key to success is "being one step ahead of the trends."

Since trends can be hard to predict, South Coast Army and Navy

Surplus stays prepared by always carrying a diverse selection, which

includes soft-pellet air guns, sleeping bags and vintage flight

helmets.

Sherman also attributes the success of the store to the industry

connections he has been making since he started working in his

father's surplus store 35 years ago.

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