The northeast corner of Main Street and Extension Road in Mesa is no longer the bright-yellow destination for veterans, military enthusiasts and outdoors people.
Larada’s Army Surplus and Outdoors Store unexpectedly closed about a month ago after thriving at that location since 1970. Founders Larry and Ada Beavers sold the business nearly three years ago to retire, said Lori Beavers, their daughter and owner of Freedom Military Surplus on Main east of Gilbert Road.
“My parents’ business was an awesome business,” she said. “What’s neat about a business like that is that it’s a small family, and I definitely have fond memories.”
The property is now up for either sale or lease, said Chris Camerucci, a realtor with Rucci Real Estate. He would not disclose the current owner of the business or the property.
The L-shaped building does have some historical significance and could be eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, said Jerri Horst, environmental manager for the Mesa High Capacity Corridor Study. She is involved in planning for Metro light rail’s extension on Main Street east to downtown Mesa.
“We have historians on our project team, and they tell me that the building was built in 1960 and was the Mesa employment agency,” she said. “Our historians believe that it is potentially eligible because … it was associated with commercial development on Main and found employment for a booming population post World War II.”
Also, the building includes various architectural features unique to its period, Horst said.
The property’s addresses are 764 and 810 W. Main St. According to the Maricopa County Assessor’s office, 764 W. Main St. is owned by Allen Ernest of Huntington Beach, Calif., while 810 W. Main St. is owned by RJW Investments LLC of Mesa. Neither could be reached for comment.
Larry and Ada Beavers, when contacted, did not want to comment on the closing.
“The property could support a wide range of uses,” Camerucci said. “We’ve been looking at mini-markets or maybe a motorcycle business in there because it’s right across the street from a car lot. There has been interest from convenience store owners … and from a wholesale jewelry company. That’s about it for now.”
Larada’s started out as a gun shop, Lori Beavers said.
“My grandfather was a gunsmith and had a gun shop over in Phoenix called the Shooters Haven,” she said. “My dad learned from my grandfather, then went into the military at Lackland Air Force Base and was a gunsmith for Gen. Curtis LeMay’s shooting team. He then comes back out of the military and starts his gun shop there on the corner. A couple years down the road, he comes across a surplus catalog, takes one order out of it and ends up liking surplus.”
After moving the business briefly to another location in Mesa, the couple then moved it back to Main and Extension, Beavers said.
“As the years progressed, what would happen is … my dad would knock out a wall and take over another business, and knock out another wall until we finally got that entire L,” she said. “In the 1980s, there was a bar next door, and my dad bought the bar and that became our warehouse. It was always expanding and successful.”
The surplus business is unique in that everyone in the business knows everyone else, and customers are treated like family, Beavers said.
“You have customers who come into the store all the time or you have customers who haven’t been in the store for 10 years, remember it was a surplus store, and come back,” she said. “It’s the whole spectrum of people, from low-end to high-end, from people who are traveling out of town and want a duffle bag, to people who have one of those little lounger chairs and it’s broken.”
Beavers remembers how Larada’s saw a spike in business leading up to the Y2K scare at the end of the millennium.
“We went through the crazy Y2K, where we wanted to pull our hair out because of the gas masks sales and the survival kind of thing,” she said.
If the property is determined to be of some historical significance, it could impact how light rail will cross the Main and Extension intersection, said Mike James, Mesa’s deputy transportation director. The Landmark restaurant, on the southwest corner of Main and Extension, already is listed on the National Register.
“We know the Landmark is a registered site, so we’re doing everything we can not to impact that site,” he said. “On something like the Larada’s site, where there are some things that may be as significant, we’ll have a different mitigation.”