HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – People may be surprised to know how many very successful business leaders we have in the Midstate.

Ollie’s Bargain Outlet was founded 37 years ago, proof that bargains add up to big bucks.

Mark Butler is CEO of Ollie’s Bargain Outlet. The Lower Paxton Township-based business is worth $5.5 billion. It is a retail empire built on buying cheap and selling cheap.

“America loves a bargain,” Butler said. “It will never ever go out of style.”

With major retail chains going out of business, Ollie’s sales have doubled in the last four years. There are 330 of them in half the country and the company is growing fast.

“It’s very humbling to see where and what we have done,” Butler said.

The son of an IRS tax auditor father and office manager mother, the 60-year-old grew up in Mt. Holly Springs, attending St. Patrick School in Carlisle and Trinity High School in Camp Hill.

“When you were a student at Trinity, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?” we asked.

“I thought I was going to be a broadcaster,” he said. “I wanted to be a sports broadcaster.”

In 1982, the late Mort Bernstein took a young Mark Butler under his wing and made him a co-founder.

“He was a brilliant merchant,” Butler said.

Butler is friends with Cal Ripken Jr;., chairing his foundation that builds sports facilities for at-risk kids.

“I’m competitive by nature,” he said. “I love sports and I find I fuel my competitive focus in the retail business.”

He’s also a majority owner of the Harrisburg Senators. That seems to help when he’s negotiating buying “good stuff cheap.”

“They want to hear that I had Stephen Strasburg on my team or Bryce Harper on my team, then that quarter that we’re arguing over becomes irrelevant,” he said.

A darling of Wall Street after taking Ollie’s public, Butler has become a billionaire.

“It’s virtually impossible to duplicate my shopping experience online,” he said.

What is his kind of success like?

“There’s a lot of pressures that come with it, and now, being a publicly-traded company, I get a report card every 13 weeks, and you got to deliver,” he said.

Butler has 8,000 employees and counting, and the Harrisburg headquarters is expanding.

“What’s it like to work for you?” we ask.

“I think I’m demanding,” he said. “I think I work very, very hard. I think why not today, because tomorrow, today with be yesterday.”

“There’s no secret,” he added. “All I know is the harder I work, the luckier I get.”

Interested in knowing more about Mark? Here are a few other things we learned about him:

Q: How does he get his hands on all that stuff?

A: If the price is right, Ollie’s will buy items a company wants to get rid of. Oftentimes, a company like Procter & Gamble will stop selling a certain scent of dish soap. They will want that soap off store shelves, so they’ll sell it to Ollie’s. There’s nothing wrong with the product, it’s just a scent that’s been discontinued. There are many other places Ollie’s gets items, everything from fishing rods to deck chairs to coffee to computer equipment to wedding dresses. Ollie’s employees go to every major trade show in America to develop relationships and ask for discontinued items, items with old packaging and manufacturer’s seconds.

Q: Why is the business called Ollie’s?

A: The late Ollie Rosenberg funded the start-up in 1982. He was the most outgoing of the group and enjoyed being the face of the store. The first store was on the Carlisle Pike in Mechanicsburg.

Q: Did Mark go to college?

A: No he did not! He says he went to Mort Bernstein University. Mort was a co-founder who took a young Mark under his wing.

Q: Does Mark have children?

A: Mark is divorced with 2 children and 3 grandchildren.

Q:  What is Mark’s biggest business regret?

A: Only buying 400,000 pairs of Crocs when he had the chance to buy 4,000,000 pairs!  They flew out of the store. He charged $10 for them when other stores were charging $30.

Online: The History of Ollie’s Bargain Outlet

Ollie’s Bargain Outlet Holdings, Inc. on the NASDAQ stock exchange: OLLI