Survival store turns disaster preparedness into dollars

CALICO ROCK, AR (KAIT) – Preparing for the worst has meant big business for a store that has opened in Izard County.

Survive USA in Calico Rock sells supplies for any disaster that may arise, including ice storms, tornadoes and even an economic collapse.

The store carries standard sporting good items, like fishing lures and flashlights, but it also sells less common things like freeze-dried food and water filtration systems.

"Our big thing is to educate people," said Shirley Wunderlich, the co-owner of Survive USA. "There are some people that have been preparing for years. They've always prepared for their families, and then there's other people that come in and go, 'I know I need to do something. What do I do?'"

Wunderlich helped open Survive USA two years ago with her business partner, Dave Dougherty, because of his experience during the Ice Storm in 2009.

"My partner Dave had been without electricity for 22 days, and he says you know okay, we need to do something," Wunderlich recalls. "That's why we decided to start the store, just to get people prepared for different things."

The store initially set out to get people ready for natural disasters. The most popular items sold at the time were bulk food items, different food preparation tools and ammunition. The store even held classes to teach people things like canning food, first aid and concealed carry.

The focus, however, has recently expanded because of growing fears of a devastating economic collapse, Wunderlich says.

"We talked about the government and how long can we sustain this debt and what if there is some kind of collapse, so that is the issue people are preparing for," she said. "What happens when times get tough?"

Wunderlich says the store had some of its highest sales ever the day after lawmakers struck a deal to raise the debt ceiling.

"That day, most of [the customers] were buying bulk food so that they had the food," she said, "and then the other things that we did sell that day was some guns and ammo."

Ammunition has become the hardest item to keep stocked on store shelves, Wunderlich says, because of fears over stricter gun laws being proposed in Washington.

Some of the store's pricey survival items have also become more attainable since the store began offering layaway. People have started looking into buying wood-burning stoves – worth $1,350 – in case of electricity loss. Some have even paid almost $4,000 for a year's worth of freeze-dried food.

These purchases may seem extreme to some, but Wunderlich says families should prepare for the unknown. She, however, says she does not want them to be afraid, just more aware and better prepared.

"Our big thing is we just want to educate people and make them self-sufficient," she said.

To learn more about Survive USA, visit the store's Web site here.

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