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The end of May will see the end of a thrift store era

The last day to shop and pick up fantastic bargain deals on gently used items will be on May 31 between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Thrift store volunteers set to welcome bargain hunters on the second to last day of business. From left: Jean Finch

As was reported in the March 7 issue of the Lake Cowichan Gazette, the Lake Cowichan United Church Thrift Store is set to close at the end of this month.

The last day to shop and pick up fantastic bargain deals on gently used items will be on May 31 between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

The thrift store will be closed for the summer and will open again for one last sale sometime in September for a special Halloween and Christmas bazaar.

The thrift store opened in 1996 thanks to Melba Gunderson, a long-time United Church member who has since passed away. Friends of Gunderson, church members, and local volunteers have kept the thrift store going, but according to Irene Towle, it’s a lot of work. Many of the volunteers are in their 70s and 80s, and many of them find  that health issues make it hard to put in the required hours. They are grateful to Randy, Ken, and Peter Ridley for all the help they have provide with heavy lifting.

These volunteers support each other and when watching them get ready on Thursday for the flood of patrons who wait patiently outside the church doors for ten-o-clock to come around, you can see the camaraderie and closeness of their relationships. There is plenty of laughter, and even a few pranks, as they organize and place the thousands of items available for sale.

Towle says that the 21 volunteers present at the church meeting in February were completely taken by surprise when it was mentioned that the church would be closing, and with it, the thrift store. “We all have a good time and we will miss each other,” says Towle. “We are not sure how we will stay connected now.”

Jessica Kelly, another volunteer, was close to tears as she watched the morning rush of shoppers pick through the many items spread out on tables in the main room. “It’s sad having these last sales,” she said. And the fact that the thrift store is closing is “not right for the community.”

For years, the funds generated through thrift store sales have helped the church stay open. “The Thrift Shop has filled the lives and hearts of everyone involved and we shall surely miss it,” says Towle. “If it were not for the thrift store income the church would have been closed years ago.”

There are plans for another thrift store in the works, but nothing is definite and it all depends on the ability to find a suitable outlet with low overhead, says Dianne Elliott, one of the long-time volunteers. She hopes to meet with Community Services and town council to explore options. The thrift store would, once again, be a not-for-profit endeavour and all proceeds would go back into the Lake Cowichan community.

All of the items that are not sold at the last sale on Thursday and in September will go to Cellar Treasures—another local thrift store located in the basement of St. Andrews Anglican Church, to Warmland House in Duncan, or to Providence Farm—also located in Duncan. Towle says that all items will be donated to these not-for-profit organizations.

On May 31, the thrift store will once again be offering their bag sale: fill one grocery bag for $3, two for $5, one black garbage bag for $6 and two for $10.