Garbage or gold?

Phyllis Wilke is upset that a private business is taking things from Whitehorse free stores and selling them.

Phyllis Wilke is upset that a private business is taking things from Whitehorse free stores and selling them.

The Whitehorse woman believes free stores, like the ones at the Whitehorse landfill and Raven’s recycling depot, are places where the underprivileged can get what they need and shouldn’t be used as a retail store’s inventory.

So, when she saw the newest thrift/consignment store — Thrift and Consignment All for You on Fourth Avenue — had pillows, a high chair and other things from the dump and Raven’s free store she felt obligated to tell people, said Wilke in an interview with the news on Monday.

“I shop a lot at Salvation Army and all kinds of consignment stores and stuff like that,” she said.

“I went into the (All For You) store today and there’s a lot of stuff from the dump and the recycling store.

“I’ve seen the stuff at the free store (Sunday), and now it’s at their store today. I’ve seen (the owner of All For You) there before grabbing stuff and putting it in his truck.”

If things from the free store are going to be picked up and sold, it should be done by charities and not businesses, she added.

He and his partner did take a few things from the free store when his business — which is half thrift and half consignment store — opened about a month ago, but most of his inventory comes from people bringing stuff in, said Alexander Gubergrits, co-owner of Thrift and Consignment All For You.

He spent a lot of time and effort cleaning and fixing things up from the dump and free store and put them in the thrift section of his store where nothing is over $5, said Gubergrits.

“Now people who need (things like a high chair) can buy it for $3 instead of $60,” he said.

“What’s the problem with that, why should these things be broken up by a bulldozer (at the landfill)?”

The consignment side of the operation contains higher-end items and features a 50/50 split between the item’s owners and his store, said Gubergrits.

But, the thrift store, which contains both donated items and free-store items, is different. It’s still a 50/50 spilt, but Gubergrits gets half and the other half goes to go to charity, he said.

Putting some effort into restoring previously loved items and keeping them out of the landfill is good for the environment, said Raven Recycling spokesman Lewis Rifkind.

“From Raven Recycling’s perspective, it’s waste diversion, which is good.

“What it shows us is that these items that people are selling have value, they’re not garbage.

“If they’re cleaning it up and repairing it, well that’s fair.”

What he would consider a problem is if people were just taking useable items from the free store without adding any value to them and then selling them, said Rifkind.

“If you’re going and grabbing a whole bunch of stuff and then just having a garage sale, then maybe you should just leave it because somebody else may need it,” he said.

“The whole ethics thing where you get something for nothing and sell it, well, I guess that’s the hand of capitalism at work.

“There’s a slight ethical question there.”

While her store doesn’t take things from the free store, she doesn’t necessarily see anything wrong with it, said Donna Sippel, owner of Sequels consignment store.

“If they have the umph to go and do it, then personally, I don’t see anything wrong with it,” said Sippel.

She herself has picked up some items from the Salvation Army and is aware that others have too, she said.

“I actually had someone call me up and say that someone was going through the Salvation Army and then bringing things to me, I don’t have a problem with that,” said Sippel explaining that the Salvation Army needs the money for its social programs and has a huge surplus of items.

“It’s win-win for everybody.”

In the fall, Salvation Army Captain Robert Sessford said his charity ships about 13,500 kilograms of excess clothing and textiles south every two months.

Sippel has been in business for seven years, and while she encounters the stigma about second-handing shopping, the situation is changing, she said.

 “A lot of consignment stores used to be off the beaten path, now people are on their cellphones telling people where they are.”

Second-hand items are often like new, cheaper and buying them keeps things out of the landfill, she added.