Ned Escaip sold his last gas mask on Thursday, and he was down to his final water pill on Friday.
Escaip, owner of The Knife Trader in Canoga Park, like some other survival supply stores across Southern California, are seeing a spike in purchases on supplies as the tough talk between President Donald Trump and North Korea has heated up in recent days.
“People are really concerned about this North Korea thing. It’s awful,” Escaip said. “It’s on the news every day. It’s in the paper. People are talking about it. I got regular customers that come in often and mention the problem over there.
There was more news Friday as the talk continued.
“This man will not get away with what he is doing,” Trump told reporters, referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. “If he utters one threat in the form of an overt threat ... or if he does anything with respect to Guam, or any place else that is an American territory or an America ally, he will truly regret it and he will regret it fast.”
Friday’s statements come after Trump, speaking from his New Jersey golf club Tuesday, said North Korean threats would be “met with fire, fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before,”
Tensions between the U.S. and North Korea have steadily climbed since the release of imprisoned Ohio college student Otto Warmbier — who later died — and Pyongyang’s launch of two intercontinental ballistic missiles in July, according to The Associated Press.
U.S. intelligence agencies now assess that Pyongyang has successfully miniaturized a nuclear warhead, putting the country one step closer to becoming a nuclear power.
The recent rhetoric has prompted jitters from Asia to Southern California over the potential for war. And it’s even playing out inside local survival supply stores.
Across the city from Escaip’s story, Jaime Edell, general manager of The Surplus Store off Venice Boulevard in Los Angeles, is seeing something similar.
“We’ve had several people say they’d better be prepared, because who knows what will happen” with North Korea, said Jaime Edell, the store’s general manager. Edell said on Friday someone purchased two cases of 50-year emergency water, and specifically mentioned North Korea.
The increase in purchasing began this last week but “it’s hard to say because we have a lot of people coming in for Burning Man (music festival) for camping stuff,” Edell said. “Some emergency stuff, like water, spills over into that. But definitely people are coming in (for the North Korea conflict) and mentioning emergency food and water.”
Escaip, 84, who has owned The Knife Trader since 1984, said he had ordered gas masks because of the shortage. Inside of his surplus store were lots of different knives, clothing, Meals Ready-to-Eat and more.
He compared the recent fervor with North Korea to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, when the U.S. was on the verge of nuclear war with the Soviet Union.
“It’s nothing new,” Escaip said, adding he doesn’t think anything will happen from the current conflict. In 1962, Escaip said he was a manager at a Ralphs in Arcadia and recalled “empty” shelves.
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Meanwhile, the SOS Survival Products business in Van Nuys has also seen more purchases of food and water, but owner Jeff Edelstein cautioned it wasn’t a “crazy amount” of people.
“It’s not like Y2K crazy,” Edelstein said. “I don’t need to throw hysteria in the air. Back then, there were a lot more people getting ready for the longterm — such as getting water — and purchasing anything to take care of themselves or their families.”
Most customers, Edelstein added, did not want to talk about why they were purchasing supplies.
“The bottom line is, as long as people are getting prepared for an earthquake, a fire or anything with North Korea, at least they’re getting prepared,” Edelstein said.
On Friday, the Associated Press reported that the United States and North Korea have been communicating through diplomatic back channels amid the rising tensions.
And Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has stressed that the Trump administration is hoping for a diplomatic solution to North Korea, with China and Russia convincing North Korea to “reconsider the current pathway they’re on and think about engaging in a dialogue about a different future.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.