If you were looking for evidence of Kimberley McLean’s punk rock past, you wouldn’t have to look far. The name of her second-hand store on Sixth Avenue, Pennyroyalty Thrift, is a nod to the Nirvana song Pennyroyal Tea.
“When I listened to it I thought ‘that’s going to be the name of my store’, because for pennies you could live like royalty,” she said. “I’m amazed, all these years later, that no one has taken the name and I can use it.”
The grunge scene of which Nirvana was a driving force, McLean explained, was an offshoot of the punk rock scene. McLean, sporting a mohawk at the young age of 15 and again at 21, hatched her plans for a second-hand shop while in the Vancouver punk rock scene.
“When I was a teenager me and I my friend talked about (opening a store). We were involved in the punk rock scene in Vancouver in the 80s and back in those days you couldn’t go out to the store and buy your punk rock gear, it didn’t exist. We had to make our own punk rock gear,” she said. “The punk rock scene wasn’t very big in Vancouver in 1980 —We were the ones that sewed everybody’s clothes for them and took their jeans and made their stovepipe jeans and put in their zippers and did their leathers for them, sewed their patches on their jackets.”
But her love for thrifting is much older than that. It all started with a special find at a neighbourhood trash to treasure day.
“I found in a box a bowler hat that was antique, but it was in perfect shape,” McLean said. “I was like 7 and I couldn’t fathom that people were just throwing these things away and from that time on I’ve been looking in the garbage, basically.”
The bowler hat is likely still around, with McLean’s sister holding onto it.
It has been a long and winding journey from the bowler hat to her current perch behind the counter of her own second-hand shop, but the joy of thrifting and the idea to one day own her own space never left her mind.
While in Vancouver, McLean collected items and took business courses with the hopes of opening up a shop, but real estate prices threatened to kill those dreams.
“I had kind of given up on the idea that it would ever happen and then when I moved to Hope I met Sabrina, she had her little thrift store across from the credit union,” she said. The two became friends, and one day McLean was offered the store as her friend wanted out of the thrift business.
By a complete fluke, McLean had inherited the exact amount less $20 Sabrina was selling the store for months earlier, from a previously unknown family connection in England.
When McLean wanted to move from downtown Hope, she heard the owner of Jungle Jim’s at her current location also wanted out of the business.
Serendipitously, McLean had just about the exact amount in her bank account to buy the second store, the amount gained from her first venture.
What she has created at 960 6 Ave. since opening August 2017 is a mix of thrift, vintage and antiques, as well as some new items. She calls it an ‘emporium’, with “something for everyone, every price range kind of thing. Like you can buy stuff for a dollar, you can buy stuff for hundreds of dollars and a bit of everything.”
McLean spends a lot of time finding out what era items are from and what they might be worth, scrolling through niche websites, consulting specialty catalogues and watching Antiques Roadshow. She keeps the prices fair, she said, charging between one-third and two-thirds of what an item would sell for online.
A lot of donated goods pass through her shop, and McLean becomes privy to pieces of the life stories of those whose goods she inherits.
“The stuff I find most interesting isn’t necessarily that it’s worth money, it’s that it’s got the name of the person on the back of it and you can look up and find the history,” she said. Some recent examples include a book of newspaper clippings of competitive swimmer Charlotte Acres — one McLean said should have her own heritage moment as she swam across Lake Ontario once — a copy of the Mounties’ Musical Ride from 1962 on super 8 film and old photographs with clues attached, usually names. “To be able to see a little bit of somebody’s life,” she added.
When asked about the appeal of second-hand shopping, a ‘monster industry’ in Canada, McLean said a lot of it has to do with people’s urge to be creative in a world where there is little time for creative pursuits and moments of wonder.
“I think a lot of people have that urge for feeling uplifted and feeling creative and seeking that moment of inspiration or lightness of heart that they get when they see something beautiful that they want to buy and then they want to own it,” she said.
The Hope Standard will be featuring Hope and the Fraser Canyon’s second-hand treasure troves in the paper every other week. If you want us to tour your shop, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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