The Summerland Thrift Store – Another in our “Life in our Little Town” blog series

Guest blogger – Jan Carlson

When my eldest daughter got married, I gave her a set of Gibson dishes for everyday use. They were painted yellow & blue with whimsical sunflowers. It’s a poorly kept secret that I spent a whopping $8 for the sunflower dish set back in 2009 at the Summerland Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Store. The dishes are gradually finding their way to the landfill, but the process has been slowed considerably as they fulfill the “R-for-reuse” piece of the 3-Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle).

If it’s true that “one woman’s trash is another man’s treasure” then the Thrift Store has produced many treasures. I am one of those people who is more likely to shop at the Thrift Store than drop off donations, because seriously, when I’m ready to toss something out it is most likely worn to a thread, suitable only for the landfill.

One of the attractions of the Thrift Store is the quality of the items. For a donation to make it past the back room and onto the store shelves, it must be in pristine condition. Worn out or torn clothing, towels and bedding get bundled up and sent to the coast to be pulped for recycled fibre products. If something can’t be sold, recycled or made into rags it is sent on its way to the landfill.

Newcomers to Summerland who drive along Victoria Avenue midday on a Tuesday wonder, “what’s going on? Is there some big event?” The line up at the Thrift Store can reach right down the block as people wait for the doors to open at 1 o’clock. The locals know that the new stock is available on Tuesday afternoon, placed there by teams of volunteers behind locked doors on Monday. But Monday is not the only day that freshly priced items are put out for sale. The volunteers work all through the week, putting items on the shelves as space permits.

The success of the Thrift Store speaks to the wealth in our community. Afterall, if our residents did not redecorate and replace clothes, toys, dishes, and housewares so frequently, where would all these good cast-offs come from? Knowing that the proceeds from our shopping goes to support the purchase of medical equipment for the hospital, we willingly bring home armloads of clothes and toys. If we don’t use it or it doesn’t fit, we can donate it back again. When cleaning up & organizing, every Summerland homeowner makes a pile destined for the Thrift Store.

I have come to recognize a Thrift Store item by the coloured paper price tag hanging by a plastic thread. I have been known to reach out mid-conversation and snap the plastic thread off my companion’s scarf to toss the price tag in the garbage. But should we toss the tag or wear it with a sense of pride? Afterall, “Thrifting” has become a popular pastime, and finding a quality item at a good price is a source of pride.

As an orchardist, I welcome seasonal workers every summer who come to pick our cherry crop. These travellers quickly discover the Thrift Store. They may not be waiting in the round-the-block line up at one o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon but often have time to slip into the Thrift Store before it closes at four o’clock Tuesday through Saturday. If their purchases have served their purpose before the end of harvest, I might find the items abandoned in the camp kitchen when the cherries are picked and the crew has moved on. (Crocheted blankets with their coloured paper tags come to mind.) But some of those quality items surely find their way back to Quebec, or maybe Mexico.

As the world opens-up in the wake of the pandemic, backpackers with work visas are travelling once more. By autumn, some thrifted items might leave Summerland and end up in Australia and Europe. But we won’t recognize them as Thrift Store items if the smart shopper has removed the coloured paper price tag & its plastic thread.

Please comment. What is your own Thrift Store memory or practice. Any store, in Kamloops, Penticton, or Victoria. Any store, anywhere. Please comment, either here on WordPress or on Facebook.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: