It has allowed cash-strapped university students to fill their dorm cupboards with essential utensils, and proved a valuable resource for families who are new to Canada and need everything from complete furniture sets to full wardrobes.
WorldServe Thrift is a one-stop shop for many on the Peninsula, and from looking at the approximately 6,000 square feet of retail space, it’s not hard to see why.
The Johnston Road second-hand store has an eclectic collection of goods, from clothes and accessories to dishes, books, appliances and framed art.
“You could furnish a house here,” manager Melody Jobse said.
And shoppers can feel good about doing so, as net proceeds from the non-profit business are directed to people in need.
WorldServe Ministries – which has a White Rock office – opened the thrift store a year ago to help fund Christian literature distribution and humanitarian aid in China, Cuba and Ethiopia, Jobse said.
What started as a pilot project is now a thriving business run with four paid staff positions and 35 volunteers, including seniors, students, businesspeople and even former customers.
“We have quite a tapestry, I call it, of volunteers,” Jobse said, noting they provide customer service as well as receive, sort, price and display goods. “The team is the volunteers. There’s no way we could do this with three or four people. We’d be fools.”
The business sells donated good-quality, working items, some of which have never been used.
“It’s not uncommon to see new items come through with tags still on them,” Jobse said.
The store has also seen its share of antiques, one of the more memorable pieces being a 1950s double-pedestal, double-drop leaf Duncan Phyfe table with chairs. Goods that don’t go out on the floor are extended to organizations that can use them, with towels and bedding donated to the BC SPCA’s Surrey branch; personal hygiene items benefiting a Downtown Eastside women’s shelter; rollerblades, bikes and sporting equipment given to a Surrey recreation program for kids; and furniture and clothing loaned to the White Rock Players Club for props.
“When we have been overly blessed… we can pay it forward.”
Whatever can’t be used for sale or donation – about a third of what is received – is recycled through the Children’s Wish Foundation.
Jobse said the store recycles as much as possible – including tin, metal, glass, plastic, electronics and cardboard – and recycled 180,000 pounds of material last year.
“We typically don’t fill our dumpsters every week.”
Jobse noted that WorldServe Thrift’s move to the former BC Liquor Store site in Hillcrest Mall could’ve easily been looked down upon by area competition – such as the Salvation Army and Superfluity Shop down the road – but the businesses have a good working relationship.
“I actually think this part of Johnston Road is a great walking day trip. It’s a great shopping road that I think, as businesses, we certainly haven’t marketed enough.”
And there is more than enough “stuff” to go around.
“If we recycle one-third or one-half of what we (receive) and are still able to fill our store, what does that tell you?” she said. “When you see it, coming in every day, bags and bags and boxes and boxes... you think, oh my gosh, we have so much stuff.
“We’re a country of affluence and we have a lot.”
With two more years on its lease at the current location, Jobse said she hopes the store continues to prosper – and even grow.
“This has been the pilot project. The leadership of WorldServe would certainly like to think we could do this in other communities,” she said. “It’s been a great adventure.”
To celebrate its one-year anniversary, WorldServe Thrift, 1401 Johnston Rd., hosts a customer appreciation event Jan. 21-22 during regular 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. store hours. Customers will be offered a 30 per cent discount on all purchases (excluding furniture), door prizes and refreshments.