What is Ocean State Job Lot? Discount chain brings ‘crazy deals’ on a little bit of everything to central Pa. (2024)

The Rhode Island discount chain Ocean State Job Lot has been expanding into Pennsylvania.

The retailer recently opened stores in the State College, Warminster and Willow Street areas. It has plans to open stores in the Elizabethtown and Shillington areas. And it has its eye on the Harrisburg region, too.

Most of the company’s stores are in the New England states, though it does have are some locations in New Jersey and New York.

With the expansion into central Pennsylvania, we talked to Paul Cox, Ocean State Job Lot’s director of store operations, to get the lowdown on the chain.

What is Ocean State Job Lot?

Ocean State Job Lot was started at a flea market by two brothers, Marc and Alan Perlman, and a college roommate, Roy Dubs. They each put in $500. The first store opened in Aug. 15, 1977, in North Kingstown, Rhode Island. In 2020, sales for the chain exceeded $750 million.

The chain has about 150 stores and the company plans to eventually expand into the Harrisburg area.

“Our intention is to open in Harrisburg,” Cox said.

The company gets its name from the state where it opened its first store, as Rhode Island’s nickname is the “Ocean State.” “Job lot” means “a miscellaneous collection of goods for sale as a lot usually to a retailer,” according to Merriam-Webster.

  • READ MORE: Ocean State Job Lot takes over half of former Kmart store

Put them together and you have “Ocean State Job Lot”.

Ocean State Job Lot has a lot “closeouts,” where the chain purchases items from large retailers or manufacturers that can’t use them anymore. The company can then turn around and sell the items at discounted prices. But Cox said that “closeouts” only make up about half of the retailer’s offerings, noting they have a lot of regular items as well.

What does Ocean State Job Lot sell?

Ocean State Job Lot deals in a little bit of everything.

The retailer sells items in the following categories: school and office supplies, lawn and garden, outdoor, cooling, beach and pool, water sports and outdoor recreation, food and beverage, household items, home decor, home improvement, pet supplies, health and beauty, and clothing.

Cox said the stores sell a lot of seasonal items from pool chemicals to beach accessories, and toys, seeds and patio furniture in the summer, to heaters and holiday decorations in the winter.

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“We have an incredible selection of winter socks,” he said.

Cox said the chain sells a lot of apparel because the company obtains large clothing closeouts.

But, he said, “Our food department is probably the most amazing.”

Cox said they are able to obtain discount items from European companies, adding that one of his favorites areas is the large selection of jams.

The chain also boasts large sections of high-end cereals, teas and sardines, among other items.

“We have more teas than you’re going to find anywhere,” he said. “We have more sardines than I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Unlike other retailers, Ocean State Job Lot places its most popular items at the front, in what they internally call the “Power Lane.”

Insider Club

Ocean State Job Lot’s loyalty program is known as the “Insider Club.” Members receive weekly coupons automatically loaded onto their account, get exclusive deals each week, know about closeouts first, and can return items without receipts because everything is placed in the company’s system.

Insider Club members can also receive “Crazy Deal” gift cards on certain items. The cards can then be used on their next purchase.

Cox said the “Crazy Deal” gift cards are like the retailer’s currency. For example, Cox said they might have a deal where you buy an item for $399 and they then give you $300 on a gift card to use the next day in the store.

“The biggest advantage of being an insider is really our crazy deals,” he said.


Ocean State Job Lot owns about 50% of its locations. The retailer even purchases larger spots than they need and then lease out the extra space. They’ve purchased former Toys ‘R’ Us and Kmart locations in the past. Cox said they look to buy places where they aren’t spending more than they have to on the purchase.

We’re not going to overpay on a location,” he said.

Pennsylvania locations

Ocean State Job Lot opened stores this year in the State College area at 2222 E. College Ave. at College Township, Centre County; and in the Kendig Square Shopping Center at 2600 Willow Street Pike North in East Lampeter Township, near Willow Street, as well as one in the Warminster area.

The retailer is also expected to open a store in the Shillington area in Berks County, and has signed an agreement to purchase the former Kmart building at Market Street Square at 1605 S. Market St. in Elizabethtown, Lancaster County. The deal is expected to close later this month.

The retailers also has stores in the Dickson City, Montgomery, Wilkes-Barre and Wind Gap areas.

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What is Ocean State Job Lot? Discount chain brings ‘crazy deals’ on a little bit of everything to central Pa. (2024)


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