There’s something very satisfying about approaching the counter of a thrift shop and dumping the treasures you’ve scavenged, having the store clerk give your items a once over and then tell you to take the entire mound home for $8.
This rather old school way of doing business is a dying breed: New2Yew second hand is one of the few remaining thrift stores where you can dress yourself head-to-toe for under $10.
Michelle Horsley, who owns the store together with her partner Jasun Horsley, said the $2 price of almost everything in store is a good way of moving product off the shelf. This is important in the small space the store inhabits on the corner of Wallace St. and 4 Ave. in Hope.
“We’re not a fancy boutique and we can hardly keep it organized because the turnover is so great,” Michelle said. “I guess it’s the kind of thrift store shopping I like to do. I like the hole-in-the-wall ones that are sort of overcrowded, things are cheap, it gets picked over.”
It is also affordable for most people, many who’ve seen their income decline as the cost of living skyrockets.
“People love to shop. They have less money than they used to have in the past, generally, I think. And so then it’s not painful, they’re not losing out on something else by shopping here,” she said.
Michelle used to work for Nat Baker at Baker’s Books and saw first hand the way he did business, selling each book for $2. She has adopted this model at New2Yew.
“When I was there, I thought of it as a goods exchange. It was like a book exchange. So this is where local people brought their books and they were exchanging the books with each other, and the two dollars was like a service fee,” she said.
Since Michelle and Jasun took the store over in 2016, they’ve been staying true to an ‘eclectic and cheap’ vibe as well as building community in their own way.
They started good neighbour day, where once a month the proceeds from the day’s sales would be donated to a local charitable cause. Shoppers would pick out their cause of choice by filling out a ballot.
This has now transitioned into the weekly donation of chicken dinners, which they distribute from New2Yew every Tuesday morning to people who are facing poverty, mental health concerns and homelessness.
Ways to help out neighbours seem to present themselves and the owners are often willing to fill the need. Women who have left situations of domestic violence and find themselves only with the clothes on their backs at the Jean Scott Transition House, people who need tools to work or do their art or clothing and bus fare to get to their new job, community groups, other second-hand store owners —Michelle, Jasun and their staff help with what they can to further their goals.
”I love the model, I love that you can help people. I love what it does for the community. This is the place to be if you want to know what’s going on in the community,” said Kd Kerstyn, who works at New2Yew. “When you’re in the store and you actually get to see people face to face, those who do speak and share stuff or feel they want to, you learn that everybody’s got a superpower.”
Kerstyn once had a elderly man tell her how New2Yew had made a marked difference in the social life of the seniors building where he lived. Residents of the building went from shopping only once a month on their fixed income to being able to afford, on their limited income, clothing and housewares they found joy in.
“He said that the culture of his apartment had changed and now, several times a month, there was cackling and excitement and jovial conversations in the laundry room that there had ever been,” she said. “There was more laundry being done and there were more seniors getting together for tea than he had ever seen and that they were making plans that, when the weather was nice, that they would go to the park and that they would go shopping together.”
There are no volunteers at New2Yew, all six part-time staff are paid. This is important to Michelle who sees the need in Hope.
“There’s not enough work in town, there are so many people who need work. I don’t want volunteers doing the work that people who need the money can do,” she said.
One staff member the Horsley’s employ is autistic. Her mother approached Michelle to see if there were any volunteer opportunities for her daughter, to which she replied she’d pay her a regular salary to work on the till.
“She’s quite non-verbal, so she can speak but it can be hard to understand what she’s saying, but she’s smart so she can do the math on the till. She loves it,” Michelle said. “I don’t have volunteers, I pay people.”
A little over two years into running the store, Michelle said they’ve seen a great response. Many tell her it’s their favourite shop in town, while others come from Lytton and Boston Bar to load up on clothing and other goods for the winter.
The Hope Standard will be featuring Hope and the Fraser Canyon’s second-hand treasure troves in the paper every other week. Next we’ll take a peek inside Pennyroyalty Thrift.