It all started with a piano.
“I love instruments, even if it’s a broken instrument or a key off a piano or a string off a guitar. If it’s instrument-related, I want it,” said Michelle Brookes.
So when she found a piano on the internet, she made the trek to Vancouver to pick it up. When she and her partner Mike Savage brought it back to Hope they realized they had no place to put it. “It wouldn’t fit anywhere,” Brookes laughed.
So they looked around to see if any neighbours would house the instrument. They approached Michelle Horsley of New2Yew second hand store if she would consider putting it in her shop. “And she just said, ‘no, Hope needs a furniture store,’ and collectibles and things she doesn’t carry. So here we are,” Brookes said.
Here we are, in a second-hand shop called Finders Keepers which came into being as a happy accident.
As the owners chat with The Hope Standard, customers come in and examine guitars, vintage perfume bottles and a collection of metal chili peppers painted bright red. A young boy and girl emerge from the back of the store, grandchildren Serenity and Spencer, who are helping sort through some jewelry.
And the piano has found a permanent resting spot in the store, adorned with other items for sale.
Finders Keepers has been open since May 1 of last year and it’s been a ‘wonderful learning curve’ said Brookes. Savage, who is a tree faller by trade, said running the shop is ‘completely opposite’ to the solitude and danger of his profession. But he is embracing the idea that throughout life the learning never stops.
The store may be new but the owners have always had an affinity for the ‘something old’ in that old wedding saying. There is something about antiques that appeals to them.
“We would collect things thinking that in the future we would have a store. And then we finally got one and it worked out,” Brookes said.
The store isn’t solely antiques. What they carry is meant to be a mix of things that are usable, that work, and collectibles. The vibe they are going for is ‘useful and unique’ with a focus on keeping prices affordable.
“I’ve been to a lot of second hand stores and a lot of things are overpriced. But I can’t give everything away for free or next to it,” Savage said, of the need to balance keeping prices low while pricing the items based on the hard work that goes into making them ready to sell.
The first year hasn’t been easy, as the couple have been dealing with immense grief while getting their business off the ground. Their 37-year-old son Mike Brookes died three months after the store opened.
“We’ve learned that when the chips are down, the people of Hope are there for you. This is a beautiful, wonderful place to live. As I lost my son here and the town came together for us. And I can’t thank them enough. I just think they’re the most beautiful people anywhere,” Brookes said of their experience after losing their son.
Mike had a hand in running the store before he died. In fact, the idea was to get Finders Keepers up and running so he and Brookes could have something to sustain them while Savage went off to pursue his true passion, falling.
Smiles spread across their faces as Savage and Brookes speak of the son they’ve lost.
They remember he would joke about divorcing the family or giving them up for adoption. “Quit aging so loud,” he would yell from the other room.
Brookes died profoundly affected by the muscular dystrophy (MD) he had been diagnosed with at 21. A double black belt and Kendo master with an intellect to rival most, Brookes had taught himself eight languages and dove into schooling when the MD prevented him from working. He also worked as a computer technician and English teacher.
“We sure do miss him,” Savage said. “The planet is a lot less without him. Kids just loved him on sight, and the way he was and his spirit.”
“Empty and sad in a way,” is how Brookes said it feels to work in the store without him. “But the store fills that void and I think he’d be proud that we’re still here and doing it like this. Because I think he wanted this.”
Finders Keepers, located at 419 Wallace St., is open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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