Rockets and flying saucers and doodads, oh my! Read the story behind Skycraft Parts and Surplus.
Q: What’s the story behind the flying saucer and rockets that adorn the exterior of Skycraft Parts and Surplus?
A: It’s one of the Orlando area’s coolest buildings, inside and out. Skycraft has been at its Winter Park location on Fairbanks Avenue just east of Interstate 4 since 1976, and the saucer and three rockets have become legendary landmarks. The “rockets” are actually aircraft wing fuel tanks bought from the old Orlando Navy Base, and they were put up when the place opened. As for the saucer, Bob Fiedler, who founded Skycraft with wife Dorothy, built that in his carport in 1978 using a dish-like fiberglass antenna, says son Allen Fiedler, president of Skycraft. “The original had incandescent light bulbs that circled around it, and it would rock back and forth,” Allen Fiedler recalls. Later, a Skycraft employee substituted neon lights and now it glows nightly.
So much for the outside. The inside is…well, let’s just say there’s a little bit of everything, gleaned from government and manufacturers’ surplus. Here’s a sampling: O-rings, fan cords, speaker wire, fuses, capacitors, audio mixers, time-delay relays, deer hunting DVDs, gift bows, paint brushes and krypton lanterns. Answer Man doesn’t know a resistor bank from a piston timer, but he’s always been beyond impressed by the amount of stuff that’s stuffed into this store.
“We sell thousands of different items but try to concentrate on electronics, electrical, wire, and hardware items,” Allen Fiedler says. “We sell to housewives, hobbyists, artists, cities, counties, local attractions, manufacturers, repairmen, and do-it-yourselfers.
“Wire averages about 18 percent of our sales. I could not say what the most common item sold is, but it has always amazed me that about every 10th customer seems to purchase heat-shrink tubing.”
Indeed, one can never have too much heat-shrink tubing lying around.
And to think all this started because Bob Fiedler was a model-boat builder who needed hard-to-find parts for his creations. He started frequenting Navy base surplus auctions. When Bob retired from his executive’s job with Steak N’ Shake after 30 years, he started selling his purchased surplus parts from a building near I-4 and Kaley Avenue. Two years later came the move to Fairbanks Avenue. That same year, Allen was hired to learn the business. His sister and her husband, along with Allen’s son and grandson are all involved now, making Skycraft a four-generation adventure (Bob Fiedler died in 2004).
Over the years, Skycraft’s inventory has concentrated less on government surplus and more on goods, mainly commercial electronics, available from manufacturers, government contractors, small businesses and individuals. And the advent of the Internet has boosted available goods, as companies looking to liquidate some assets see Skycraft’s website and get in touch.
“You name it: If it’s an electronic part we either have or have had it at some point in our 40 years,” Allen Fiedler says. Or as an admirer put it on Yelp: “If and when I get around to building my robot army, THIS is where I will go for parts.”