Why Viktor’s Payless and Grocery has excelled during the pandemic
The first time some customers discovered Viktor’s Payless and Grocery was when the pandemic hit two years ago and owner Viktor Gjergji had plenty of supplies on Jacksonville’s Westside that were in short supply elsewhere.
The advertisements might have brought new customers there, but what they couldn’t expect to find was an entire mall filled with all sorts of discounted merchandise ranging from clothing and produce. from non-perishable groceries to furniture and mattresses.
Gjergji is considered an accidental entrepreneur. He worked for someone who sold discount merchandise at 6612 San Juan Avenue. But more than ten years ago, when the previous owner left the company, Gjergji took over.
The first thing he did was start filling in the empty space after the previous owner sold everything. Gjergji began buying goods at government auctions and seizures, unclaimed freight and excess inventory from other retailers. He now buys from wholesale liquidators nationwide, as well as returns from retailers like Wayfair, Costco, BJ’s and Walmart.
“Of course we felt the impact of the pandemic,” he said. “But we haven’t been hit as hard as some companies because we’re a one-stop-shop that offers something for everyone.”
“We have clients that range from low-income people to judges, lawyers and business people who include millionaires,” he said, noting that his goal is to serve everyone, whether he’s be it a struggling student or a wealthy landlord. .
Gjergji’s businesses are among those that experienced only a brief lull due to the pandemic. With signs saying “$9.98 all clothes” and items ranging from cleaning supplies, diapers and beauty products to massage chairs, sinks and brand name furniture and rugs, it’s easy to see why Gjergji says with confidence that people from all walks of life are able to find something that suits their needs.
It’s hard to imagine that Gjergji is one of a surprising number of accidental entrepreneurs. Most entrepreneurs will tell you that starting a business is something they always felt destined to do. But this is not the case for people like Gjergji who can be found in the ranks of the independents.
A third of business owners never planned to start their own business, according to a study of entrepreneurs by The Recruit Venture Group. And despite challenges such as fundraising and finding clients, only 1% regret their decision and 12% said they wish they had started their business sooner.
Gjergji said he grew up in Albania, a communist and brutal regime. In his early twenties, he was part of a student revolution and fled to Yugoslavia where he lived in a refugee camp for almost two years.
“I got political asylum and was sponsored by Lutheran Services. That’s how I moved to Jacksonville in 1991,” he said. “That’s why I support this organization to this day. I also support other nonprofits because it’s important to help organizations that help others. You have to give back.”
Although most people don’t know why he got into the business, several customers recently said they’ve been buying from this place for years because it’s a neighborhood business. very varied.
Tewanna Witsell, who lives near Viktor, said she frequently stopped by Gjergji’s three stores because stocks were constantly changing and she never knew what would be there.
“I’ve bought several pieces from here, including high-end sofas and mattresses. Viktor has great stuff and you never know what’s going to be here. The inventory changes all the time,” she said. “When I’m looking for something in particular, I stop once a week and grab a snack on the way out the door.”
Gjergji said he likes to pass the discounts on to consumers, but is also proud to help nonprofits such as homeless shelters and churches.
It’s a place where you just don’t know what you’ll find because the items are so varied.
“I never know what I’m going to get because I buy a lot of stuff in bulk,” he said as he opened a box full of Lysol wipes in a back room at the grocery store.
“Most of the time we don’t even know what’s in the containers with furniture. I never know what’s coming. That’s what makes this company so unique and interesting.”
But he said he prides himself on offering high-end furniture and brands such as Drexel, Barclay Butera, Pulasky and Collezione-Europa.
“Not everyone can afford nice furniture,” he said. “But they can here, because we sell it for a fraction of what it costs at retail.”
The Strip mall is about 60,000 square feet, Gjergji said. It started with a small area but has continually added more, more recently taking over space formerly occupied by Family Dollar. The center of the Strip has three stores, including Viktor’s Payless Salvage and Furniture and Viktor’s Liquidation.
Samantha Wallace, 50, owner of Wallace Roofing, said she had lived her entire life in the Lakeshore Hyde Park area and appreciated Viktor’s offerings.
“Why pay so much more for the same thing that’s marked up in a furniture store or a big-box retail store,” Wallace said. “Why pay retail? I’m all about selling.”