Whitehorse shopping and re-use enthusiasts, get your wallets ready: the city’s latest thrift store is about to open its doors in a new, permanent location.
Since May, the Whitehorse Community Thrift Store, an initiative largely driven by volunteers, has been hosting pop-up shops around town to sell its stock of donated goods. While those were successful, the goal has always been to have a space that the store could call its own, representative Susie Anne Bartsch said — so when a spot opened up in the Yukon Inn Plaza in late August, the store jumped on it.
“We have not a lot (left) to do, but a fair amount to do before we’re open, but we have the people to do it so this is great,” Bartsch said when the News visited the store, located beside Wines By Design, on Sept. 18, four days before its official opening.
“At this point we’ve done quite a few pop-ups … so we got good at it and got to know each other within the context of working on this, so it’s become a really cohesive group of people, a lot of cooperation goes into making this kind of thing happen.”
Bartsch said the remaining work is mostly just taking care of the “small details” like setting up a bulletin board near the entrance to let would-be donators know what goods the store can and can’t accept, and setting up the card-payment system (shoppers are encouraged and advised to bring cash for opening day).
The big stuff is all taken care of — the walls, once mauve, have been painted various shades of white or cheerful yellow and orange; new dark-brown wooden floors have replaced the old, red, chipped linoleum tiles.
Perhaps most importantly, the wares have been laid out in neat sections that are ready for customers to browse: there’s the “boutique” section right at the front of the store, where clothing is sorted by size, and men’s, women’s, children’s and babies’ categories (two changing booths with mirrors are available for customers who want to try before they buy); there’s a shelf of linens; a kids’ play area that also doubles as the toy store; more shelves of board games, books, CDs, VHS tapes; and finally, a back area filled with larger pieces of furniture.
For the next while, Bartsch said, the store will only be open on Saturdays, in part because organizers want to be sure that they’ve built up a steady and reliable pool of volunteers to help keep everything running smoothly before increasing hours. The store is also not taking donations at the Yukon Inn Plaza location but will be holding scheduled “intake” sessions at its locker at North Star Mini Storage instead, Bartsch said, because at the moment, it simply doesn’t have the capacity for it.
“One of the things we’ve been saying … is, we’re moving slow to move fast. And not just to move fast, but, let’s make it for the long-haul,” she said. “When we’re slow enough to make sure that we’re getting details right so that we’ll last.”
Besides building up a base of volunteers, Bartsch said other parts of the store’s long-term plan include partnering with other local businesses to help divert waste (for example, it’s currently in talks with the Purple Bike Project to take in bike helmets that it can’t legally sell), hiring at least two staff members to manage operations, and figuring out what to do with proceeds once the store becomes profitable.
Until it starts turning a profit, it’s also focusing on achieving its goal of raising $70,000 to keep it financially secure for at least the first year — between the $10,000 it received from the Yukon Innovation Prize in April, its active GoFundMe campaign, and funds from pop-ups and donations, Bartsch said the store’s about halfway there.
But for now, Bartsch said, the fact the the store finally has a home, and that it will be welcoming shoppers soon, is at the top of her mind.
“We keeping coming in (and saying), ‘Can you believe that we did this?’” she said.
“It’s a labour of love, but the amount of people who love thrift stores is significant … It’s so needed. Our community proved that to ourselves, that not having a thrift store leaves a real hole for people who, one, love shopping in this kind of place and, two, who really need this kind of a service, both for donating and particularly for buying.”
The Whitehorse Community Thrift Store, located in the Yukon Inn Plaza, will open on Saturday, Sept. 22 at 10 a.m. Customers are encouraged to bring cash. There are two scheduled intake days in the near future — Oct. 6 and 20 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Contact Jackie Hong at