Winnipeg thrift store aims to do more than find new home for previously loved items

Winnipeg thrift store aims to do more than find new home for previously loved items

In a way, Revive and Thrive Thrift Wholesale looks like a typical thrift store: shelves of hanging clothing, shelves of kitchen and glassware, assortments of jewelry, toys, and furniture for sale.

But volunteers and employees at the Indigenous-owned Logan Avenue store are offering more beloved goods for sale than before. They are designed to help people who are trying to make a fresh start.

“We’re taking thrift stores to another level and making them cozy,” said Crystal Irvine, director of operations at Revive and Thrive.

“We’re all a little bit like family here … and at the end of the day, if you can help someone else, it’s better than a paycheck.”

Revive and Thrive provides volunteer and work experiences, including for adults with intellectual disabilities, River East Transcona School Division students and young people involved with MacDonald Youth Services, all of whom are involved in the store.

Irvine says she tries to create a fun and welcoming environment for customers, employees and volunteers alike.

That has implications for Lillian Unger, a volunteer and senior dealing with injuries and trauma from a random attack on the street. She lives with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“This place helps me deal with that,” Unger said. “[Some] Days when I don’t know what to do with myself at home. I live alone and I find coming here makes a big difference in my life.”

Lillian Unger hangs and sorts clothes at Revive and Thrive on Thursday. She says the store is a way for her to feel supported. (CBC)

She encourages others to volunteer in the business.

“I really love it here,” she said. “I get great support here.”

As customers enter, instead of music pouring from the speakers, they may be greeted by a backdrop of vintage rock and country tunes blared by Allan Baryaski while strumming his guitar.

Allan Baryaski plays guitar and sings on Thursday’s Revive and Thrive. (CBC)

“It’s just such a good feeling and people come in and say, ‘If I’m having a bad day at work, I just come here to browse and listen to you, it makes me feel better,'” Baryaski said. His right arm rested on his acoustic guitar.

Patrons who agree to step up to Baryaski’s microphone and sing karaoke while he plays can receive a 35 percent discount on their purchase.

It’s this kind of bargain along with the warm atmosphere that makes Pat Cook customer keep coming back.

“You feel so welcome when you come here and you just want to look around and see what they have,” Cook said. “There’s always something I always buy.”

Pat Cook says that Revive and Thrive’s mission of helping people as part of their model drives them to do more for the community. (CBC)

In addition to its usual sales of used items, Revive and Thrive is giving away surplus hats, gloves and scarves to the Bear Clan citizen patrol group, Irvine said.

The business has also recently started putting together care packages for people emerging from homelessness.

The idea came about after some requests from social workers for care packages for clients, Irvine said.

The packs contain some of the essentials everyone needs: cutlery, crockery, cutlery, can opener, cheese grater, linens and more. A gift card is also included so people can return to the store to choose what they want.

“I think it has a huge impact on them, takes the stress out of starting over and gives them a little bit of pride,” she said.

Irvine said the initiative is new and demand is growing faster than expected. She’s thrilled that they’re having an impact.

She has other plans on the horizon. Last year she facilitated a program for Indigenous youth who could use the store as a training ground to develop skills that would help them land retail jobs. She hopes to extend this to people moving into homes after life on the streets.

“It’s all about building people up and seeing them grow is really phenomenal,” she said. “Labor of Love.”

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