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Ruhling: The Deep-Discount Guy

Chris Sciacco, who is wearing a grey sweater and a big smile, throws open the doors to Kaiya’s Pallets.

This is week No. 5 of the wholesale/discount store’s existence, and he’s really pumped.

Come on in! We have deals you can’t pass up!

Water is 10 cents a bottle.

Gatorade is 50 cents a bottle.

Diapers are on sale for $10 a pack.

And brand-name cereals are $3 to $5 for a two-pack.

Come on in! Fill your cart without emptying your wallet!

“I’d say that 90 percent of the people who come in here do not leave empty-handed,” says Chris, as he greets another customer. “I decided to open the store because there’s nothing cheap in Astoria.”

Kaiya’s Pallets, which he describes as “a mom-and-pop BJs-Costco,” certainly fits the bill.

Its ever-changing inventory of brand-name products, which range from toothpaste and olive oil to clothing and lounge chairs and appliances, is the very definition of deep-dollar discounts.

Despite his enthusiastic sales pitches, business is not Chris’ first love, something you might guess if you’ve seen the hilarious videos he creates and stars in that promote the store.

A native of Whitestone, Chris moved with his family to Maryland right before he started high school then came to New York City when he enrolled in The New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts.

He majored in film.

“I always had a camera,” he says. “I was an athlete and goofball, and I was always making stupid stuff. I fell in love with filmmaking after I took a course in high school.”

His parents, he says, were not amused by his affinity for the cinematic art.

“I begged them to let me do it,” he says.

To appease them and ease their fears for his future, the summer before he started school, he worked at his uncle’s discount store, Thomas Ventures, in Corona.

He bartended his way through college, and when he graduated, he moved to Astoria in 2007 shortly before his daughter – in case you haven’t figured it out, she’s the Kaiya in Kaiya’s Pallets – was  born.

“I started working for my uncle full time,” he says. “He told me he wanted me to follow my dreams, so he allowed me to take time off to continue making films.”

Chris took him at his word: So far he has made 300 shorts, and his first feature-length film, The Improviser, has just been released.

In 2018, when his uncle died, Chris began running the store and successfully shepherded it through the pandemic by adding a wholesale component.

And that might have been the end of the story had his aunt not decided to retire and sell the store, which, he adds, may or may not happen any time soon.

“She encouraged me to start Kaiya’s Pallets, which is a mini version of Thomas Ventures,” he says. “Right now, I’m working seven days a week and going back and forth between the stores.”

It is, he admits, a lot.

Kaiya’s Pallets, which covers only 5,100 square feet, is staffed by Chris and four of his friends.

Kaiya, who is 13 and is the model for the store’s logo, works a weekend shift in the clothing section.

“At first she thought it was cute that I named the store after her,” says Chris, a proud single father since her birth. “But now all of her friends are making fun of her.”

And she’s making it fun for herself by promoting the store on social media.

In case you’re wondering, Chris is starting work on yet another film; it will, of course, be shot in Astoria.

And he’s planning on making a film about his grandfather, a Korean War POW who came out of the fighting with four Purple Hearts, two Silver Stars and three Bronze Stars pinned to his uniform.

Sometime in the future, he hopes to open more Kaiya’s Pallets.

“My dream is to have another location on the other side of Astoria,” he says.

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