Sizing Up Gastown’s Cool New “Community Thrift & Vintage”
by Michelle Sproule | Owned by The Portland Hotel Society, a Vancouver organization aimed at providing housing, advocacy and support to people in the Downtown Eastside, brand new Community Thrift & Vintage isn’t just Gastown’s freshest storefront, it’s also a social enterprise that runs as a not-for-profit business that accepts donations of gently-used clothing and redirects all profits to charities in Vancouver (bonus: it employs residents of the DTES in a graduated job training program).
But this is not your average not-for-profit shop. There aren’t gnarly stains, mothballs and mountains of crap to sift through. From its “no polyester” policy and its emphasis on natural fibres to the obvious knack the staff have for zeroing in on great pieces, this joint could easily occupy a heart-of-Main Street address and gouge dollars from those who frequent cool-kid stops like Front & Co. This place definitely has that specialty, carefully curated feel, minus the glam, glitter and holy shit, really? mark-ups. In other words, they aren’t surcharging for cool.
Shop manager Jenni Nelson and some of her core staff (like local fashion sage Katie Piasta) throw in their expertise at no extra charge. Equal parts stylists, seamstresses and thrifters of the first order, these girls know what they are doing and are happy to advise on what works and what doesn’t. On my visit this afternoon (they opened this morning), I walked out with a beautiful French cotton summer top (see below, $10), a simple navy blouse ($10) and a vintage, sand-coloured linen dress ($24). I’m not sure that I would have picked the dress off the rack if left to my own devices, but Katie sized up the items I was carting off to the changing room and pulled it out for me. It fit perfectly.
The interior is all reclaimed wood and exposed brick walls with vintage mirrors and the occasional retro schoolhouse chair thrown in for good measure. Jenni and her husband Jeff Lee (both of the band Hard Drugs) renovated the space on their own, salvaging most of the material in the long neglected space. Have a look at the before/after piece on their blog. Woah. Nice work!
Here are some more shots from today…
You have to check this place out. The prices are in line with what you would find at a typical no-frills thrift shop, and boys…don’t fret. There’s plenty for you to score, too.