Two generations keep Joe’s Army Navy store thriving

Herman and Jeff Goldsmith

Family-owned Joe’s Army Navy has two stores in Clawson and Waterford which carry a wide range of merchandise from military and camping gear to workwear.

Independent retail stores have faced serious challenges for years. First, big-box retailers and online outlets provided tough competition for neighborhood stores. Then, COVID necessitated temporary store closures and health precautions as well as delays in getting merchandise.

However, father-son team Herman and Jeff Goldsmith show that retail can successfully evolve and grow over 50 years in the Detroit metro area. Family-owned Joe’s Army Navy has two stores in Clawson and Waterford which carry a wide range of merchandise from military and camping gear to workwear.

“Most of the stores are cookie cutter, but we are completely different from everything else. Jeff works so hard to find an actual military product. It’s a friendly place where people can buy things that aren’t no longer available,” says Herman Goldsmith, 91, of West Bloomfield, who still comes to the store every day. “I chat with every customer,” he says.

Jeff Goldsmith, 58, of West Bloomfield, says Joe’s Army Navy was started by Joe Jacobson in downtown Pontiac in 1946. Herman Goldsmith initially worked as a buyer for the store, then bought it in 1972 Joe’s Army Navy moved to Waterford in 1983 and opened a Royal Oak store in 1988. In 2019 the Royal Oak store moved to Clawson.

“My father was a garage salesman. He took things that people didn’t want and found a way to make them marketable,” says Jeff Goldsmith.

After World War II, the US government held auctions at military bases across the country to offload massive amounts of surplus clothing and equipment left over from World War II. Since the government no longer holds regular auctions, Jeff relies on two large surplus shows held each year in Las Vegas and a worldwide network of distributors.

According to Jeff, many people collect WWII items such as canteens and leather goods, and there is also a market for reproductions of equipment used in WWII, the Korean War and the war. from Vietnam. In addition, Joe’s Army Navy stocks many brand name cold weather and camping gear, including items for Camp Tamarack, as well as specialty shoes and boots. The store has “80 feet of specialty bags for carrying stuff,” Goldsmith says.

He enjoys researching unusual merchandise, such as reverse osmosis cylinders, used in water treatment. (Three out of 15 sold.) “There’s a lot of detailed computer work. I am constantly on the lookout for novelties and novelties. I really like the company,” says Jeff.

According to the Goldsmiths, many army surplus stores have closed. “We have a tremendous number of loyal customers,” says Jeff.

Her father adds that some of them are second-generation customers. Joe’s Army Navy celebrates 50 years July 7-10 with sales, refreshments and giveaways at both stores.

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